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Looking beyond Lyman’s rhetoric, what of his claim that the United States is at risk for a BSE epidemic? Bovine spongiform encephalopathy belongs to a class of fatal brain diseases These diseases are known to be transmitted between species; they arise both by infection and, at a rate of one per million, by sporadic mutation. They have long incubation periods: in some cases forty years have elapsed between exposure and the onset of illness. In most cases the TSEs are hard to transmit; however, the spread of TSEs has been linked to cannibalism in Papua New Guinea and the feeding of The first case of BSE in Britain, where the disease would ultimately infect over 900,000 cows, was detected in 1985. By 1988 the disease was thought to have spread via meat-and-bone meal, and that summer the British government banned the use of meatand-bone meal in feed. The British government continued to downplay the risk to humans, however, and as late as 1995 Prime Minister John Major announced, “There is currently no scientific evidence that BSE can be transmitted to humans, or that eating beef causes CJD in humans.” But in March, 1996, the British government reversed its position, announcing that consumption of BSEbeef was the “most likely” explanation for the appearance of a new variant of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease. Because BSE may arise sporadically and incubate for long periods, there is no way of knowing that it is not present in a single cow in the United States. No instances of the disease have been detected, but even cattlemen acknowledge that a BSE cow may exist in the U.S. herd. In this country, the feeding of cow-derived feed to other cows wasn’t banned until after the British scare was widely reported in 1996 long after scientists knew that feeding meatand-bone meal to cattle increased the risk of the disease’s spread, and that TSEs were transmissible between species. That delay alone argues in favor of the Howard Lymans of the world, who may not be measured in their word choice but who inform the public about how our food is produced. For in the end, it’s our general ignorance aboUt where our food comes from that sets the stage for these battles of public safety and public relations. “We have totally disconnected the consumer, the demand from the supply,” says feeder Mike Callicrate. “I was offended by the way Howard Lyman portrayed the problem of BSE. I think it was sensational; he overdid it…. However, I am not in favor of a lawsuit against Oprah Winfrey. I think the cattle producer loses every way you look at it…. If we had BSE in the U.S. we wouldn’t have a clue where it came from, because these big packers blend meat from the United States with meat from all over the world. “What we’ve got in the cattle industry,” Callicrate continues, “is the same thing we have in other industries: major multinational corporations looking for the cheapest labor to produce products, and selling it into the highest consumer markets. And it’s all at the expense of domestic cattle producers.” Don’t expect to hear that on the evening news. Karen Olsson has just returned to the Observer from the wilds of Manhattan so we sent her to Amarillo to get re-acclimated. “MAI I?” from page 7 world economy [is] a bubble economy,” he continued, and particularly the U.S., where a two-decade increase in productivity has been matched .by a corresponding decline in real wages for 80 percent of the work force. Batra brandished his just-published book, Stock Market Crashes of 1998 & 1999, and compared the current world economic circumstances to those of early 1929 only worse. He concluded, “We should expect a big crash in the Western markets in the next few months, probably in February or March.” It may take a worldevent that devastating to slow the international corporate juggernaut, rolling relentlessly along under the “free trade” banner. So if you’re short a few million by spring, remember: you read it first in The Texas Observer. Additional research for this article was generously supplied by INFACT, a public-interest corporate watchdog group based in Boston. For much more on The Multilateral Agreement on Investment, visit the Dallas MAI Conference website at, with links to Public Citizen and elsewhere, including texts of the agreement. 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