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OIE Files Brief In Favor of USDA Minimal Risk Rule

R-CALF's greatest challenge to USDA's rule is that the rule doesn't meet OIE guidelines.

R-CALF USA filed a motion requesting a Preliminary Injunction in its lawsuit against the USDA concerning the agency's Final Rule to reopen the Canadian border to live cattle and additional beef products on March 7, 2005. The motion was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, located in Billings, Mont. on Feb. 1.

The cattle group's biggest complaint with USDA's rule is it "compromises science acknowledged throughout the rest of the world" through OIE World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recommendations. However, David Wilson, head of the International Trade Department of the OIE, filed a brief with the Montana court in favor of USDA's proposed rule to categorize Canada as a minimal risk BSE country.

In the brief filed with the court, Wilson explains that OIE codes "aim to avoid the transfer of agents pathogenic for animals or humans, without the imposition of unjustified trade restrictions."

R-CALF and several congressional members have used OIE guidelines as a scientific explanation for keeping the border closed. "OIE would not consider it appropriate for the importing country to apply each criterion as an item on a checklist and to conclude that the exporting country fails to qualify for a particular risk status merely because it does not meet a listed criterion within that particular status," Wilson's brief states. "In such a situation, the importing country would be expected to utilize the outcomes of its risk assessment in determining whether an alternative risk management measure could be applied to achieve the same level of protection."

For instance, OIE guidelines recommend that a feed ban be implemented for 8 years. Canada falls short by a few months with the 8-year anniversary occurring in August 2005. "A deficiency in the length of time a feed ban has been effectively applied could be addressed through restrictions on the age of live cattle imported," Wilson explains.

Wilson made it clear that "The OIE does not recommend that an importing country completely ban trade in live cattle, and fresh meat and meat products, even when the importing country determines that the exporting country has a high BSE risk status," the brief says.

R-CALF's hearing for the preliminary injunction is scheduled for March 2, 2005.

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