TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – President Ma Ying-jeou called an emergency National Security Council meeting to discuss the issue of the banned ractopamine leanness drug in beef from the United States, reports said Saturday.
The meeting came on the eve of an inter-ministerial discussion with experts hosted by the Council of Agriculture Saturday, which for the first time was to be broadcast to reporters.
On Friday, the Legislative Yuan decided to pass four different versions of legislations which might confirm the ban on ractopamine on to a committee. The NSC reportedly also discussed the sudden postponement of a March 4-6 visit by US Commerce Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez. The American Institute in Taiwan has denied the change was related to the beef issue, though lawmakers said it was a way of raising pressure on Taipei to lift the ban. AIT said a new date would be found for the trip.
Inspections around the country also turned up more examples of ractopamine found in beef at restaurants and supermarkets, proving to critics that the government’s attempts at stopping the banned substances at the borders was failing.
Premier Sean Chen told lawmakers Friday that Ma had told him ‘Three No’s’ about the beef issue, namely that there were no promises to US about an end to the ban, there was no timetable, and the government held no predetermined stance on the ban.
Ma reiterated his stance that any government decision should be based on professional analysis using scientific data and that the discussions should hear the voice of the public, presidential spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi told reporters after the NSC meeting.
The NSC discussions lasted for more than three hours, reports said. Premier Chen, Foreign Minister Timothy Yang, COA Minister Chen Bao-ji and Presidential Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan were all present.
The NSC reportedly discussed reports that Sanchez had postponed his visit because the US felt that political elements had interfered with what should be a purely scientific process of deliberation about the likely threats to public health posed by ractopamine.
On Saturday, the COA hosted the third in its series of inter-ministerial meetings with specialists about the problem of leanness drugs in meat. After strong protests and even a walkout by a professor, the COA agreed that reporters would be able to follow the proceedings on TV screens. A total of 13 academics were expected to turn up, but six others were not coming, reports said.
The meeting came under fire for reportedly using data collected 20 years ago, while a representative of the opponents of ractopamine threw doubt on the impartiality and the authoritativeness of the invited experts.
Outside, consumers’ rights activists protested with placards using the term Pay-Linsanity, a play of words on Paylean, the commercial name for ractopamine, and Linsanity, the craze surrounding Taiwanese-American basketball star Jeremy Lin.