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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

EU Rests Mad-Cow Fears With Beef Import Plans

(CN) - The EU's governing body agreed Thursday to more than double imports of North American beef by August, ending a long dispute over the use of growth hormones by American and Canadian ranchers.

The announcement stems from a 2009 deal that the Council of the European Union struck with the United States to increase the EU autonomous tariff quota on American-raised "high-quality" beef not treated with hormones from 20,000 tons to 48,200 tons.

Beef imports from Canada will increase to 1,700 tons under the agreement. For their part, the United States and Canada agreed to eliminate certain sanctions on EU products.

The decision marks the end of a trade war that has raged since at least 1989, when the EU banned hormone-treated meat amid an epidemic of mad-cow disease.

Canada and the United States took the issue to the World Trade Organization, arguing that the ban contradicted prior food-safety agreements.

According to a 2010 Congressional Research Service report, the WTO ruled against the EU in 1997, finding the ban "inconsistent with the EU's WTO obligations under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement because the EU had not conducted a risk assessment."

The dispute continued for years, with the EU claiming that it had met WTO obligations, and the United States arguing that the ban ignored "a clear worldwide scientific consensus supporting the safety to consumers of eating hormone-treated meat," the report states.

Continued negotiations led to the 2009 memorandum of understanding, in which the United States agreed to progressively reduce sanctions while the EU likewise increased the tariff-rate quota for high-quality beef that is not treated with growth hormones.

The council, meeting in Luxembourg, adopted the modification on a first reading agreement with the European Parliament.

Its decision comes the same week that the Department of Agriculture confirmed the first case of mad cow disease in the United States in six years. Regulators say the infected California cow had developed a mutated form of the disease, which is less worrisome to the beef industry than a feed-caused infection.

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