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Motion to ban US beef gets voted down in Legislature

TAIPEI--The Legislature voted against an impromptu motion to discuss banning U.S. beef imports yesterday, amid concerns resulting from the recent discovery of a new mad cow disease case in the United States.

Lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition camps voted 50-44 against a proposal to immediately pull U.S. beef from store shelves and stop all beef imports.

This marked the second time that the Legislature voted against putting U.S. beef imports on the agenda, following a confirmed case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), in California on April 24.

Last week, lawmakers voted 45-44 against a similar motion.

Both motions were put forward by opposition party legislators, who number slightly fewer than ruling Kuomintang lawmakers. Of the 113 seats in the Legislature, the KMT holds 64.

“Say no to beef tainted with ractopamine and mad cow disease! Safeguard our citizens' health,” shouted opposition lawmakers, after the motion was defeated for the second time.

President Ma Ying-jeou's administration had been eager to lift the ban on ractopamine, a leanness enhancing livestock feed additive, since his re-election in January.

Local civic groups and some health specialists, however, have argued that ractopamine poses unidentified health risks and have accused the government of compromising the nation's health in the interest of diplomatic gains.

Imports of U.S. beef have been a sore point in trade ties between Taipei and Washington for many years.

Taiwan first banned U.S. beef imports in 2003 when a case of BSE was reported in the state of Washington. In April 2005, Taiwan re-opened its market to imports of boneless U.S. beef from cattle under 30 months old, but imposed another ban in June 2005 when a second U.S. case of BSE was reported.

Imports of certain cuts of U.S. beef have since resumed, but Washington has been pressing for wider opening and more recently, has lobbied strongly for Taiwan to lift its ban on beef containing ractopamine residues.

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