retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Bush administration’s plan to reopen the US border to Canadian cattle under the age of 30 months was dealt a blow yesterday when a federal judge in Montana granted a request for a temporary injunction blocking the move. The judge said that the government and the cattlemen who called for the injunction had to agree within 10 days on when a hearing should take place on whether he should make the injunction permanent.

The cattlemen objected to the opening of the border because of fears that the Canadian cattle would expose their own cows to mad cow disease, which has been diagnosed in four Canadian cows over the past two years.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns described the ruling as a mere “procedural delay,” but said he was disappointed by it. USDA has not decided on whether to appeal the ruling.

It also isn’t yet known whether the injunction will affect negotiations with Japan, which has closed its borders to US beef because of one mad cow case discovered in Washington State more than a year ago.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the cattlemen may not be entirely altruistic in their motives, since the closing of the border to Canadian cattle has raised beef prices in the US.

Meanwhile, Business Week reports on the frustrating search by scientists for an understanding of how and why mad cow disease is transmitted.

While only 159 people worldwide are known to have died from eating BSE-infected meat, Business Week reports that “each new case is a painful reminder of the unanswered questions that swirl around mad cow and similar scourges in sheep, deer, and elk. Despite a decade of intense investigation, scientists still disagree about how these diseases are transmitted, how long they can incubate without symptoms, if they can be cured, and what steps should be taken to lessen the toll. In recent months scientists have made some startling discoveries. Yet they are dismayed that mad cow is so slow to yield its secrets.
KC's View:
And yet, some people remain convinced that we’re doing enough to trace and track mad cow disease, that because we’ve only identified one case in the US there has only been one case in the US.