For The Week Ending Nov. 30, 2012
CONSUMERS UNION USES JUNK SCIENCE TO SCARE CONSUMERS, ATTACK TRADITIONAL FARMING
Consumers Union, an advocacy group, this week published an article – in its magazine Consumer Reports – designed to scare consumers into purchasing only organic pork by using junk science against pork from conventionally raised hogs. NPPC and scientists such as Dr. Scott Hurd, former U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy undersecretary for food safety, strongly criticized Consumers Union for attempting to link antibiotics use in food animals with antibiotic resistance in humans and for ignoring more than 15 years of data from federal public health agencies, showing significant reductions in bacteria on meat. Among their criticisms of the “findings” in the Consumer Reports article:
- The low number of samples tested (198) does not provide a nationally informative estimate of the true prevalence of the cited bacteria on meat.
- Yersinia enterocolitica found by Consumers Union on some pork has more than 50 serotypes and several biotypes, only a few of which are pathogenic and, thus, could cause illness. Consumers Union either did not conduct, or chose not to report the results of, tests to determine if the bacteria it found were pathogenic. Federal surveillance data show a greater than 50 percent decline in human Yersinia cases since 1996. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a low number of U.S. cases, so low, in fact, that USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service does not test pork for it.
- The few antibiotics the article cited as being unable to treat some bacteria – because of resistance – are in classes that are not considered critically important to human health. Regardless, virtually every bacteria has some antibiotics to which it is resistant. Consumers Union cast aspersions on the FDA approval process for animal drugs by referring to European concerns over ractopamine, a feed supplement approved by FDA and the United Nations’ food-safety standards-setting body after in-depth scientific analysis. Additionally, ractopamine is not an antibiotic.
HSUS FILES LEGAL COMPLAINT WITH USDA
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) this week launched its latest attack on the U.S. pork industry by filing a complaint with USDA’s Office of the Inspector General, claiming that Pork Checkoff funds from the National Pork Board have been misused. NPPC says HSUS’s claim is patently and demonstrably false and won’t scare pig farmers into abandoning practices that protect the well-being of their animals. The National Pork Board sponsors dinners to showcase pork products at meetings of NPPC’s Pork Alliance and its Pork Action Group. The expenditures are approved by USDA. The attack from HSUS shows the animal-rights group’s desperation following its failure to get the so-called Egg Bill approved by Congress and its stunning defeats during the November elections. It poured hundreds of thousands of its “members’” contribution dollars into political races against lawmakers who support America’s family farmers and into at least one state ballot initiative. It lost the latter and many of the political races in which it was involved.
NPPC SUPPORTS TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY
NPPC submitted comments this week in support of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as Fast Track, to the President’s Export Council. TPA allows the president to negotiate trade deals based on strategic goals and objectives outlined in the legislation with ongoing congressional oversight. Congress may approve or disapprove resulting trade agreements but may not amend them. It gives trading partners confidence that the agreements negotiated with the United States will not be changed by lawmakers. The most recent TPA expired in 2007. NPPC strongly supports TPA legislation that will encompass a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a possible U.S.-EU FTA and all other trade agreements that might be negotiated over the life of the bill. Exports are increasingly important to the U.S. pork industry and add significantly to the bottom line of U.S. pork producers. Last year, U.S. pork exports were valued at $6.2 billion, almost $1.5 billion more than the year before. Through September of this year, exports are on pace to match or exceed that value despite the effects of the severe drought across much of the nation.
NPPC FOCUSED ON COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITY IN SOUTH AFRICA
Starting in 2013, the United States anticipates it will begin renegotiation of the U.S. pork export certificate with South Africa. Currently the export certificate has very strict and unscientific-based time/temperature requirements for concerns about trichinae and pseudorabies. South Africa also recently notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it would impose New Zealand-like restrictions on pork from countries with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). PRRS is not a food-safety issue, and there is negligible risk of PRRS transmission from the legal importation of pork from countries with the disease. With the help of Dr. Bob Rowland, Kansas State University researcher and internationally recognized PRRS expert, NPPC developed and submitted comments on the WTO notification and is providing technical support to the forthcoming negotiations. Because of strong international pressure, South Africa has not yet implemented any additional PRRS-related restrictions. There is unmet commercial opportunity for the U.S. pork industry in South Africa. NPPC is working toward removing barriers so that this commercial potential can be tapped.
NPPC WORKING TO EXPAND MARKET ACCESS IN SINGAPORE
The 15th round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement begin next week in Auckland, New Zealand. The TPP is an Asia-Pacific regional trade pact and represents the best opportunity for the U.S. pork industry to remove sanitary-phytosanitary (SPS) barriers to trade and to eliminate import duties in the countries involved in the negotiations. Singapore offers potential for growth as an export destination for U.S. pork products. U.S. exports are currently limited to that country because of its non-science-based SPS barriers, including a ban on pathogen reduction treatments and trichinae mitigation requirements. Additionally, overly restrictive production date and shelf-life restrictions further limit imports of processed, fresh, and chilled U.S. product.
RUSSIA PNTR MOVES TO THE SENATE; SPS ISSUES UNRESOLVED
The Senate next week is expected to vote on legislation authorizing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia. The House approved legislation providing PNTR with Russia and ending the application of the Jackson-Vanik law before the Thanksgiving recess. NPPC is taking no position on Russia PNTR because of that country’s persistence in imposing non-science-based trade barriers such as zero tolerance on pathogens in raw products, a standard no country in the world can meet. Because of those ongoing unscientific barriers that impose a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the market, only 41 percent of total U.S. pork plant capacity is eligible to export to Russia. Although U.S. pork exports to Russia have increased this year between January and September over the same time period last year, the U.S. pork industry is not realizing its full potential.