Talking Points for Timothy J. Galvin
Administrator, Foreign Agricultural Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Before the National Cattlemens Beef Association
Press Conference on the EU Beef Ban
National Press Club, Zenger Room
First, my thanks to George (George Swan, President of NCBA) and Chuck (Chuck Schroeder, CEO of NCBA) for inviting me to todays press conference.
As we all know, this Thursday, May 13, is the deadline set by the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the European Union (EU) to open its market to U.S. beef.
This arbitrary and scientifically unjustified ban has gone on for far too long for 10 years and has cost the U.S. beef industry and the U.S. economy both in lost revenue and lost market opportunities. It also threatens to undermine the World Trade Organization and the principles that underlie it, including that such measures must be based on sound science and that WTO members found to be in violation must come into compliance.
On three separate occasions once in 1997 and twice in 1998 the WTO ruled that the EUs ban on the use of certain hormones to promote the growth of cattle violated the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement and that the EU had 15 months to come into compliance and that deadline expires on Thursday. As a WTO member, the EU must adhere to these decisions, just as any WTO member must.
In each of its decisions, the WTO found that the EU beef hormone ban "does not conform to any of the scientific conclusions reached in the evidence referred to by the European Communities" and that the ban is without credible evidence to indicate that there are health risks associated with hormone-treated beef.
Four decades of studies by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and other scientific experts have all confirmed this same fact: proper use of these six hormones [Estradiol, melengestrol acetate, progesterone, testosterone, trenbolone acetate, and zeranol] poses no risk to human or animal health. There is essentially no safety difference between eating beef from animals treated with hormones and those not treated with hormones.
Not only have our own scientists found U.S. hormone-treated beef to be safe, but scientists from around the world have agreed that the use of these compounds does not present a health hazard to consumers.
As recently as 3 months ago, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reexamined and reconfirmed the safety of Estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone when administered to cattle in accordance with good veterinary practice. In 1987, JECFA reached the same conclusions for five of the six hormones approved in the United States. Other scientific expert groups, from the 1984 and 1987 Lamming Committee commissioned by the European Commission, to the 1995 EU Conference on Growth Promotants, to the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods, have repeatedly confirmed the safety of all six hormones.
In addition to all these findings, the United States maintains an extensive regulatory control system to ensure the proper use of these hormones. The U.S. system includes comprehensive food safety standards that are based on sound, internationally recognized scientific criteria.
The United States has been very open to finding ways to resolve this conflict. We have offered to label U.S. beef entering the EU market so that EU consumers can make their own decision whether or not to purchase U.S. beef. We are also open to the idea of compensation between May 13 and a future date when the EU might lift its ban. But we are not open to further foot-dragging and evasion on the part of the EU. Although compliance, through a lifting of the ban, remains our preferred means to resolve this issue, if no agreement can be reached, we are prepared to protect our rights under the WTO by requesting authorization to retaliate in the form of 100-percent tariffs on a list of EU food and consumer products.
When the EU signed on to become a WTO member it agreed to abide by all WTO rules. It is time for the EU to honor its commitments under international agreements. To do anything less is to make a mockery of our world trade system.
There are over 800,000 beef cow operations in the United States today, and thousands of additional cattle feeders. The U.S. cattle industry has consistently been among the strongest voices in calling for free trade, fair trade, and the need for the marketplace to function in an open manner. If we are to maintain the faith of these producers in trade agreements both past and future, then we must ensure that the those countries found to have violated their trade obligations are made to comply. U.S. impatience on this matter has been 10 years in the making, and time has run out.