[Editorial] The Truth On Mad Cow Disease

      February 07, 2001 19:39

      As fear of bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease spreads in Korea as well, domestic livestock ranchers and feedstuff producers, and now even distributors and other service industries are being affected. Consumers are confused as to what to do. The most important thing for the government to do at this point is to stay steady amidst the confusion, and pull together all its resources to make a fundamental and skilled response to the situation. This is not a simple agricultural or economic problem. There needs to be careful, long term plans in place to guarantee the nation's health. If unfounded optimism or bureaucratic avoidance of responsibility lead to responses that are expediency or makeshift measures, this problem could end up being a problem even for our posterity.

      Most important in making an all-out response to mad cow disease is a full revelation of all related documentation in government possession. What makes the uproar about mad cow disease so dangerous is the uncertainty and widespread ignorance. Little is known about many of the most basic elements of BSE, and the human manifestation of it, variant Creutzfeld Jacob Disease or vCJD, making preventative measures and all available information that much more valuable.

      It is in this context that the government's approach makes little sense. The world has had flashes of mad cow disease for close to ten years now, and yet all our government has ever had to say about the subject is that everything's safe. It wasn't known that cow feed prohibited from importation to Korea has been successfully exported to Korea by other countries until news media in other countries broke the story. It was only recently revealed that feedstuff made from food waste has been feed to livestock for years. The government continues to say only that all is safe, even when this beef has been in distribution. One understands that converting human food waste to cow feed was an idea arrived at after much agonizing over the issue, but the government did go ahead with the plan despite suggestions by experts that this is potentially dangerous.

      It still isn't too late. The government needs to put the nation's health first. It should reinforce preventive measures, and then disclose all the information it has to the country. The rapid spread of unnecessary fear might be a problem, but worse would be
      to let thing truly get out of hand by making responses based on ignorance.

      (February 8, 2001)

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