Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Bush Administration Fights Against Private Mad Cow Testing

This is just crazy.
The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

The Agriculture Department tests less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. But Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone tested its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive test, too.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. U.S. District Judge James Robertson noted that Creekstone sought to use the same test the government relies on and said the government didn't have the authority to restrict it.

The ruling was to take effect June 1, but the Agriculture Department said Tuesday it would appeal effectively delaying the testing until the court challenge plays out.


Mad cow disease is rare enough that I can understand believing the costs of testing are perhaps not worth the risks. But to use the federal government to forbid private companies from testing their own cattle for a disease that's deadly to humans? That's just crazy.

11 comments:

Mark said...

Not necessarily. I'm guessing Bush isn't doing this just because he felt it was a nifty idea, but on recommendations from CDC (FDA?). False positives are very costly because it involves typically destruction of many many cattle. I haven't spent any time with models of disease and numbers but the policy as stated may actually in the best public interest.

Scott said...

False positives are very costly because it involves typically destruction of many many cattle.

Yeah, but costly for who? Not consumers or the public, but rather the owners of the cattle. The people who are suppose to shoulder the burden of risk in our supposedly capitalist system. Instead we have a protectionist system with lip service given to free trade from politicians.

A terrible decision, though not surprising considering the ineptitude of the FDA. Governments tend to monopolize things when they're threatened by superior, more efficient, private individuals.

Jewish Atheist said...

Mark:

Again, the question isn't whether testing is worth it; the question is whether the federal government should be forbidding private testing of private cattle. The courts have already ruled that government has no such authority, but the Bush administration is pressing on for an appeal.

What is their motive? Is it simply to protect the big beef companies from competition?

Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

Yeah, but costly for who? Not consumers or the public, but rather the owners of the cattle. The people who are suppose to shoulder the burden of risk in our supposedly capitalist system.

Huh?????

I'm not quite sure you understand how capitalism works. If costs rise for the producers of a product, they're going to raise the price in which they sell to the public.

If the product becomes too expensive, consumers switch to a different product.

The risks are assumed by everyone. That's capitalism.

Jewish Atheist said...

CWY:

The risks are assumed by everyone. That's capitalism.

No, currently, the risks are assumed only by the consumers. The beef companies are betting that not testing will be more lucrative and consumers don't have any choice about it. The whole point of this post is that Bush is going out of his way to oppose allowing some companies to choose to offer the choice to consumers. You should oppose that on principle.

Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

No, currently, the risks are assumed only by the consumers. The beef companies are betting that not testing will be more lucrative and consumers don't have any choice about it.

No, the beef companies are taking a huge risk- if there's mad cow outbreak at the consumer level and people die, people are going to cut back on meat purchases.

Beef producers are being pretty stupid here.

The whole point of this post is that Bush is going out of his way to oppose allowing some companies to choose to offer the choice to consumers. You should oppose that on principle.

Oh, I definitely am opposed to this rule, though if the risk of false-positives are high enough I could understand the Agriculture Dept's fear that it could harm the beef industry.

Scott said...

I'm not quite sure you understand how capitalism works. If costs rise for the producers of a product, they're going to raise the price in which they sell to the public.

Price is a theory of economic science, not capitalism. Capitalism is the system by which private individuals put their own capital on the line to provide the means of production. If the capitalist uses poor capital goods to produce, or in this case bad cows, he loses his ass. The consumer doesn’t suffer because there are plenty of other capitalists who do have good cows.

That’s the efficiency of the market. When bad producers fail, they go under, removing them from the public. In our current Mercantilist system, the government is there to protect individuals from failure, which actually hurts consumers because bad producers are propped up and kept in the market.

Richard said...
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Richard said...
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Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

That’s the efficiency of the market. When bad producers fail, they go under, removing them from the public. In our current Mercantilist system, the government is there to protect individuals from failure, which actually hurts consumers because bad producers are propped up and kept in the market.

How on earth is this rule propping up bad producers? If there's a mad cow outbreak, (which is more likely if there is less testing)the only company that is going to be left standing is Creekstone.

Scott said...

How on earth is this rule propping up bad producers?

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone tested its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive test, too.

Good producers ensure their product is safe, bad ones don't.