TAIPEI (CNA) — The head of Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) announced Sunday that the party has officially begun to collect signatures to initiate a referendum proposal opposing the government’s decision to lift a ban on imports of pork containing a controversial feed additive.
In a speech at the KMT’s annual National Congress, Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said the party kicked off the campaign in the hope of holding a national referendum next year opposing the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) administration’s announcement on Friday that it will allow U.S. pork containing ractopamine to enter Taiwan.
The KMT stands firm in opposing the central government’s decision to set a maximum residue level (MRL) for ractopamine in pork because of potential health concerns, Chiang said.
He called on those who are against the decision to lift the ractopamine ban to sign the petition on the KMT’s referendum proposal “to say no to the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen.”
The referendum proposal asked voters: “Do you agree that a ban should be in place to prohibit the import of pork and pork products containing ractopamine?” according to the KMT.
Speaking at a press conference, Yunlin County Magistrate Chang Li-shan (張麗善) of the KMT, whose county is home to 40 percent of Taiwan’s pigs, accused the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of making a major about-face in its policy.
The DPP was extremely vocal during the previous KMT administration in opposing meat products containing ractopamine.
Chang pledged that her county will continue to ban the leanness-enhancing drug even if the central government sets an MRL in the future “to safeguard the health of the people.”
Under Taiwan’s Referendum Act, referendums can take place every two years, with the next possible date being Aug. 28, 2021.
In order to hold a national referendum, a number equal to 1.5 percent of voters in the most recent presidential election must sign a petition supporting the referendum proposal.
There were 19,311,105 eligible voters in the Jan. 11 presidential election in 2020, according to data from the Central Election Commission.
Ractopamine is currently banned for use in pigs in Taiwan as well as in the European Union and China because of concerns over its safety to both animals and humans.
The United States, however, has long criticized Taiwan’s zero-tolerance policy for ractopamine in pigs as an impediment to trade, and has not held formal talks on trade with Taiwan through the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) framework since October 2016.
While announcing the restrictions on imported pork will be eased, President Tsai said the move to open to ractopamine-tainted pork from the U.S. will be a “significant starting point” toward promoting closer bilateral economic ties.
Taiwan’s new standards for ractopamine residue in imported pork, as well as the opening of its market to U.S. beef from cattle aged over 30 months, which had been banned because of fears of mad cow disease, will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021.