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Cattle producers sue USDA to stop Canada cattle imports said to carry 'mad cow' risk

[JURIST] Eleven plaintiffs, including the R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF) [trade association website] have sued [press release] the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) to prevent a rule change that would allow Canadian cattle over 30 months old and beef products from such cattle to be imported into the country starting Nov. 19. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the District of South Dakota, alleges that cows older than 30 months place US cattle at increased risk for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) [USDA backgrounder, PDF], otherwise known as "mad cow" disease [CBC backgrounder]. The USDA has said that the rule change, commonly known as the Over Thirty Month (OTM) Rule, comports with fair trade practices and that slaughterhouse regulations and inspections will protect against the spread of BSE. However, a spokesman for R-CALF alleges that

By USDA's own analysis, it is a virtual certainty that the OTM Rule will result in the importation of Canadian cattle infected with BSE, the meat from which will enter the US food supply, and that the OTM Rule also will result in the importation of billions of pounds of meat from OTM cattle slaughtered in Canada, which almost certainly include products from cattle infected with BSE. There also lies the possibility of contamination of U.S. cattle feed caused from the use of Canadian cattle products, like blood, in the manufacturing of cattle feed.
The plaintiffs also claim that the rule change will impose severe economic hardship on the US cattle-producing industry because purchasers will be reluctant to buy cattle and beef products that may derive from Canada and contain BSE.

In July 2005, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the USDA could lift the ban on Canadian cattle imposed in 2003 and that the move neither harmed the economic interests of the cattle producer plaintiffs nor increased the risk of BSE infection in the US. In June 2007, the Superior Court of Quebec ruled [JURIST report] that some 20,000 cattle breeders could proceed with a class action lawsuit [CTV report] against the federal government of Canada for its handling of BSE, alleging that Canada was negligent by allowing cattle infected with BSE to be imported from the UK, and subsequently failing to inform the public or the cattle industry. AP has more.

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