Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Who will benefit from Taiwan lifts ban on U.S. beef import

AFP/File – A staff is seen packaging imported US beef for sale at a Taipei supermarket.

AFP/File – A staff is seen packaging imported US beef for sale at a Taipei supermarket.

Recently, the Taiwan government claims that Taiwan will lift ban on U.S. beef import, which is a six year long ban because of mad cow disease. Taiwan will improve the trade relation with the U.S. because of this.

The Taiwan department of health announced that U.S. bone-in beef entering Taiwan is “from cattle less than 30 months of age and meets other requirements”, and they will import all the part of cattle except the one which is in the high risk of mad cow diseases. That is, cattle parts such as brains, skulls, eyes, spinal nerve roots, tonsils and small intestines, as “particularly risky” and these items remain on lists of export or import bans.

But this new change still arouse the critics from Taiwanese consumers, they argued that the government are not concerned about people’s health.

From the health minister Yang Chih-liang, there will be two limitations for the import of U.S. beef. First, only bone-in beef from cattle less than 30 months old will be allowed to be imported. Second, Importers of US bone-in beef must have export permits and safety guarantees from the US Department of Agriculture.

In 2003, the U.S. broke out the first case of mad cow diseases, then Taiwan forbad the beef import from U.S. But after that, U.S. gave pressure to Taiwan government, to request the import again, reported by local media. And Taiwan also lifted a ban during these years. In that year, Japan, Korea ban US beef imports on mad cow fears.

Taiwan is the sixth large overseas market for U.S. . As far as I am concerned, the issue is not only related to the food safety and food consumes, but more likely a political one between U.S. and Taiwan. Will the people in Taiwan benefit from this? I think the government should clarify it to the people, or it not deserves to exchange people’s health with the political concerns.

Links:

Japan suspends beef imports from US plant

http://money.aol.com/article/japan-suspends-us-plants-beef-amid-mad/712384

 Thousands in S Korea beef protest

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7491482.stm

 

The back shadow of melamine

newb

One year ago, a milk scandal occurred in China. It’s reported that Chinese milk powder contaminated with melamine sickened more than 50,000 infants, including 4 deaths. This issued seriously damaged the dairy industry and Chinese consumers lost confidence in native milk products. As a result, the head of major Chinese dairy firm Sanlu Dairy went into bankruptcy; The former chairwoman of Sanlu Dairy was sentenced to life in prison and three others received death sentences. In total, more than 60 people have been arrested in connection to the scandal.

Recently, it seems that the Chinese milk market is recovered. The latest data shows that from January to July, the nationwide diary industry has recovered to 70% of the pre-scandal consumption level. The three giant diary brands–Mengniu Dairy, Yili Dairy and Bright Dairy still rank the top three in Chinese diary market, and the industry structure haven’t changed much, neither.

Melamine

Melamine

However, does the melamine totally disappear in China now? The positive results may probably base on two judgments. One is that the enterprises involved in it have paid too much for this; the other one is the government has paid a large amount of compensates and revised some more safety standards.

But what Chinese government did is just an overall control. The truth is the diary industry still faces the shortage of original milk, and the establishment of that is weak. On one hand, the government improves better technology and management so the quality can improve, on the other hand, it just focus on “this issue”, that is, if some other problems occur, we may not have enough preparation for them. In the meantime, if the three giant diary brands’ development only result in government’s effort, that will also be the sorrow of theindustry.

Giant pandas should be allowed to die out?

81 Panda Chris Packham

“Here’s a species that of its own accord has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac. It’s not a strong species.”  BBC wildlife expert Chris Packham said.

Chris Packham is a well-known English naturalist, nature photographer, television presenter and author. Obviously, he is a conservationist.

He argued:”It’s big and cute and a symbol of the World Wide Fund for Nature and we pour millions of pounds into panda conservation. I reckon we should pull the plug. Let them go, with a degree of dignity.” He also added that oney spent on the panda would be better spent on other animals.

(Chris Packham)

(Chris Packham)

It’s said that it not the first time he commented like this. In 2008, he said “I’d eat the last panda if I could have the money we’ve spent on panda conservation back on the table for me to do more sensible things with”.

In my opinion, “pour millions of pounds into panda conservation” is not the point. The thing is, does the protection of pandas deserve “millions of pounds”? And whether we do that in a proper way?

Considering from the ecology aspect, many pandas cannot live themselves or cannot live without human beings’ help. So it becomes endangered and there are only about 20 patches of forest in a densely populated region of China.  But in cultural sight, the value of its survival needs more to consider. That is, Giant panda is considered as a national treasure of China. It’s now kind of symptom of China, and also works as a communication bridge between countries (e.g., China has sent many giant pandas to America as a matter of friendship). Above all, people (especially from China) should do more to continue grant panda’s lifetime.

Globally think about this, it seems that it comes from a good desire, but may not come to a proper result. Will Travers, chief executive of the Born Free Foundation, insist that people needed to “do what they can to keep wildlife in the wild”. On this issue, the protection of the giant pandas is essential, but the way people do may be not a best way. Raising the rare animals in a limited area is no difference from putting them into cages, which do little to their evolution. It’s rather than what Packham said, “Let them go, with a degree of dignity”.

So the way we treat with the “big and cute” animal is not a simple question. More discussion and scientific research are needed on it.

Fair Trade: Is That Good for Us?

t-map-coffee

The Coffee World Map (source: www.gardfoods.com)

What is fair trade? Let us refer to the definition in Wikipedia. It says, “Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate and flowers.”

In other words, fair trade is kind of “conscientious consumption”. That is, you can buy products in a reasonable price, at the same time which develops opportunities to people (most of them are poor famers, or handicraftsmen) in the area of origin. It’s beneficial to both sides.

In China, the rural areas take a large amount of country, and the number of farmer is the largest in the world. But many farmers are living in a low lever living quality, what they owned for one year’s labor may only afford their living. If fair trade be the mainstream market in agriculture of China, Chinese farmers will get the maximum benefit. While at this time, it is hard to reach that. More realistically, requesting developed to reduce agricultural subsidies will be an efficient way, which can decrease the import from other countries and leave enough market to the local farmers.

In 2003, Dr. Liang did an investment in Guangxi province (in the western part of China), and wrote a report about the unfair trade sugar industry in China faced with. She analyzed that between 2001 and 2003, the sharp decline of international price of sugar severely damaged the Guangxi’s sugar industry, which leaded to the low income for the sugar farmers. Dr. Liang indicated that if there were a fair trade organization, the situation will not be that worse.

In most time, poverty and hardship limit people’s choices while market forces tend to further marginalise and exclude them. But fair trade can draw consumers closer to producers, and reduce the unnecessary exploitation in the market. Now fair trade has some large organizations such The Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), The World Fair Trade Organization, The Network of European Worldshops (NEWS), The European Fair Trade Association (EFTA). There are 25 stores approved by World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) in Asia, including an embroidery company in Yunan.