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    We’re all gonna die! VIII

    The World Organization for Animal Health (for which the acronym is OIE–which, in addition to its long Japanese name of 国際獣疫事務局, makes it look as if there should be an Epidemiology in there somewhere) is proposing relaxed BSE policies:

    The international organization OIE, which establishes safety criteria for livestock, has established a new set of standards that would broadly relax safety criteria related to BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy)* and is presenting them to its member nations, including Japan.

    Japan has mandatory inspection of every head of cattle, but other countries have been able to set their own standards.

    However, the judgment of the WTO (World Trade Organization), which deals with trade issues that arise between countries, is that the OIE rules are the standard. When the OIE adopts new standards, if exporters such as the US appeal to the WTO with claims that Japan has placed limitations on beef imports based on its own excessive safety criteria, Japan could be backed into a corner.

    Why, yes, it could, especially since even a cursory look at the information available on CJD (with its prefix-indicated variants, the human form of BSE, scientists think), reveals that most of it consists of “We don’t really know…” and “While far fewer than the predicted 900,000 people have been infected, it’s still theoretically possible that….” Of course, Japan’s propensity for protectionism is the stuff of legend by this point, and though citizens may cry for their 牛丼 (gyu-don: lit., “beef bowl”), it seems inclined to keep dragging its feet in lifting the beef ban.


    * Interesting side note: the Japanese for BSE is, like many scientific terms, a direct translation: 牛海綿状脳症 (gyuukaimenjounoushou: “cow + sponge [as in, a member of the animal phylum Porifera, though the kanji sequence is literally “sea + cotton”] + form + brain + disease). They also, like us, informally call it 狂牛病 (kyougyuubyou: “mad + cow + disease”).


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