Ma vows transparent technical meeting over beef controversy

By Grace Soong, The China Post

The third technical consultation meeting over the U.S. beef row, which is to occur on March 3, will be completely open to the public, and experts of both positive and negative opinions on the import of U.S. beef will be present, President Ma Ying-jeou announced yesterday.

Participants of the Kuomintang (KMT) Central Standing Committee related yesterday that Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) had delivered a special report on “The U.S. Beef Issue: Beef with Ractopamine.” Many committee members had expressed concern about the issue and urged the government to relay the discussions that had taken place over the topic to the public to appease consumers’ worries.

According to the KMT officials, Ma had refuted the opposition Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) claim of the United States government making a secret deal with the KMT administration as “a massive misunderstanding.”

The KMT and the U.S. government had never achieved any agreements regarding allowing ractopamine-laced beef imports in exchange for the U.S. government’s support for Ma’s presidential re-election campaign, Ma had said. The president also reiterated that he had on multiple occasions stated that the government’s stance on importing U.S. beef remains the same; “the public’s health and food safety are of top priority to the government.”

Whether it be during meetings within the government or with Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Raymond F. Burghardt, Ma’s certainty on the subject had never quivered, the KMT officials said.

If it were validated that leanness enhancers are toxic to the human body, the government would definitely keep and uphold its ban on the substances, Ma said, explaining that it is because many nations around the world are still open to the use of these enhancers that such discussions are taking place in Taiwan.

“We have to first make sure that no health concerns are involved” before inputting affirmative or negative opinions on the subject, he was quoted to have said.  The government will also hold public hearings over the issue, in addition to convening experts, discussions within the government, and holding the March 3 technical consultation meeting — which will be transparent and open to all media, Ma had promised.