Mad Cow Thesis Twisted Out of All Proportion

      May 09, 2008 09:42

      Accusing him of failing to notify the Korean public about the dangers of mad cow disease, a group of people recently shouted insults and threw animal dung at the house of Kim Yong-sun, the Hallym University medical professor who wrote a thesis stating Koreans were genetically more vulnerable to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human strain of BSE. This is according to Yoon Dae-won, chairman of the board at Hallym University, who is visiting Finland with Kim.

      In a thesis published in a foreign scientific journal in 2004, Kim said 94.3 percent of Koreans carried a gene called MM (methionine-methionine). That’s a much higher ratio than the 37 to 38 percent of Americans or Britons who carry that gene. Until now, all 207 humans around the world who have contracted CJD are said to possess the MM gene. Based on this, the MBC news program “PD Diary” broadcast a segment saying Koreans were two to three times more likely to contract CJD than Americans or Britons. This was exaggerated further as it spread through the Internet, with people saying there was a 94 percent chance for Koreans to contract CJD, leading to a panic about mad cow disease.

      Yoon said Kim was under extreme duress because the news media exaggerated his thesis, while politicians were abusing it in their witch-hunt. Kim is said to be showing signs of extreme stress.

      It is common knowledge in medicine that no disease can be explained by a single factor. A higher ratio of Asians than Caucasians indeed possess MM genes. In fact, 92 percent of Japanese carry the gene. But out of the 207 humans around the world who have contracted CJD, only one is Asian. In the U.S., 110 million people carry the MM gene, but not one of them has contracted CJD.

      Even though they are aware of this fact, some forces are busy inciting the public, saying Korea will disappear from the face of the earth in 10 years if it opens its market to U.S. beef since every last one of us will die of CJD. And at the same time, those forces threw animal dung at the expert who wrote the thesis for not taking part in their campaign of lies.

      It is fortunate that the Korean Academy of Science and Technology and the Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies are holding a series of debates and public hearings on mad cow disease, while the broader scientific community has stepped up to address groundless worries over BSE. Lee Yong-soon, a professor of veterinary medicine at Seoul National University, delivered a lecture at a debate hosted by KAST and said mad cow disease will soon disappear since its cause has been discovered. Most of the participants in the debate said fears over mad cow disease had been severely exaggerated. It is now time for society to listen closely to the objective explanations of scientists and free itself from the grip of emotional agitators.
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