Is the cause of varCJD still one of those "Unknown Unknowns"?

Folks, given the current level of unjustified hysteria about the dire threat of beef imports introducing BSE and devastating our export beef industry and causing varCJD in Aussies, I thought it an opportune time to pose this question. Have we proved conclusively beyond a shadow of a doubt that the BSE prion is the cause of var CJD in humans?

Or is it still one of those "Unknown Unknowns " famously defined by former US Vice President Donald Rumsfeld as these being "things we don't know we don't know". Furthermore, is the real answer in one of the other caterogies of human knowledge so cleverly defind by this often pilloried gent.

All copyrights for the below reserved to Donald Rumsfeld.

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are
things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns.
There are things we don't know we don't know.

Donald Rumsfeld

A special hi to Janet Thompson as I know she has been studying up some info I sent her on the subject.I look foward to her thoughtful comments.
Now Laurel, please take a deep breath and perhaps have a little lie down before you get too wound up over this intruiging topic. Cheers to all Lee Mc Nicholl


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But what if the Americans or the EU subsidise the export price to get rid of a surplus? Ask the dairy people. A month or so ago Obama put billions into a dairy export incentive to keep US farmers milking their cows. How would we cope with that? Can you compete with a subsidised beef?
Remember 'milk lakes' butter mountains' (sold eventually to grease the tracks of Russian Tanks) When I was in the UK in the nineties there was more barley in 'Intervention' (an acronym for government store and the barley was owned by the EU) than the entire Australian harvest.
Ther is no such thing as a level playing field in international food trade.
First of all, I think clarification of terms is necessary here. If there is a surplus, exports don't have to be subsidised. The price of the product will be low, so the product will be attractive on the world market. (A production subsidy might be the cause of a surplus, but not necessarily. Oftentimes, surpluses occur without any government intervention whatsoever. This will tend to drive prices down, which will cause some producers to exit the business. This in turn will lead to less product being produced, which will cause prices to go higher.)

The cost to the whole of society of the imposition of any type of subsidy or tariff is ALWAYS greater than the gain experienced by the "benefitting" part of society. (It is a transfer of wealth from one area of society to another. Many people argue that, because the EU subsidises their farmers, we should also do so. This is a false (and utterly silly) argument. It's like saying because the US is about to regulate greenhouse gases and make their industries uncompetetive, we should, too.

So, Roger, if the US (or Russian or European Union) taxpayer is willing to subsidise the rest of the world, I reckon we should let them! Let's let the US taxpayer make our food cheaper (if, indeed, they can do so and after all the other expenses I referred to in the above post still land it on our shelves cheaper than we can produce it, which I still doubt.). Their inefficient application of resources will allow us to get better at lots of things while they support their inefficient producers at the expense of their good producers, their taxpayers, and/or their consumers. Their population will eventually tire of the wealth transer, or their farmers will become very inefficient (farming the policy instead of farming for production), or both. (I've got Japan in mind here.) Either way, we win.
You wrote:
First of all, I think clarification of terms is necessary here. If there is a surplus, exports don't have to be subsidised. The price of the product will be low, so the product will be attractive on the world market. (A production subsidy might be the cause of a surplus, but not necessarily. Oftentimes, surpluses occur without any government intervention whatsoever. This will tend to drive prices down, which will cause some producers to exit the business. This in turn will lead to less product being produced, which will cause prices to go higher.)

A further point of clarification. Export subsidies are paid direct to whomever is doing the exporting.

Farmer subsidies are paid to the farmer direct. Like the Cap system in Europe. Farmer subsidies do not affect the price of food. Farmers around the world, subsidised or not, are complaining about their terms of trade. Doesn't matter where you go the story is the same.

You would be hard pressed to show that the majority of EU farmers are inefficient. It's a myth that subsidies cause inefficiency. The head of consultants DeLoitte in the UK, major ag consultants in East Anglia, the grain bowl of Britain, said that it was uneconomic of his clients, with an average of around 9 tonnes of wheat per hecatare to grow food without the CAP payments.

The EU has and does from time to time produce surpluses. So does the US. Export subsidies then lower the price of that product on the world markets where we compete with unsubsidised products. We are disadvantaged and there is nothing we can do. Tell our dairy farmers to become more efficient. It's a dare!

Buyers, take the case of milk powder, buy the product that is the cheapest. In this case the US product at a price at which Australian dairy farmers cannot afford because it is below the cost of production. So we see a dramatic fall in the price of milk products world wide.

Talking of farmers and production Bill Clinton once said in his address to the nation and referring to subsidies 'We will not let the heart of America die.' So he increased support to the Ag industry and ramped up export subsidies.

If America, or anyone else for that matter, flooded the Australian market with 'cheap' beef, how would we compete with our unsubsidised beef?

Coles and Woolies will buy wherever they can buy the cheapest product. They do that now. Snow peas from Zimbabwe. Corn from Thailand. Fish from wherever, even Lake Victoria! Asparagus from Chile brought in by air freight So much for Peak Oil. Kiwi Fruit from Mexico. Why not subsidised beef from Japan or the US?

Subsidising farmers is different to subsidising exporters.

You might like to go to the Think Tank sometime. I have discussed subsidies at some length there.

You wrote:
Oftentimes, surpluses occur without any government intervention whatsoever. This will tend to drive prices down, which will cause some producers to exit the business. This in turn will lead to less product being produced, which will cause prices to go higher

In my fifty years of watching how the supply and demand price curve operates in Australian agriculture, and in the world for that matter, the only exception to the conclusion that it doesn't (work), is the current market on sheep meat. Look what happened to wool. We halved the flock and the price halved and is only just staggering back again and is now totally reliant of the Chinese. Not good for wool producers having one buyer controlling the market.

Wheat, from time to time, has been subsidised on to world markets, again mostly by the US and the EU. In Australia we produce just 5% (at most) of the worlds wheat and depending on the year, 12% to 15% of the wheat that is traded internationally. Texas produces more wheat than Australia, or at least it did. Cargills trade in more grain than Australia produces. More fertilizer too. Cargills have been subsidised to sell US grain.

Over the last forty years the 'real' value of wheat has declined. In the late sixties early seventies wheat, in today's dollar was more than $600/tonne. Today FGP, $200 if you are close to port.

Oftentimes, surpluses occur without any government intervention whatsoever. This will tend to drive prices down, which will cause some producers to exit the business. This in turn will lead to less product being produced, which will cause prices to go higher

Tell me when. In my experience all we have done is produce more of everything. Have a look at the stats. Again go to the Think Tank and the 'Paradox series of posts.

America and the EU have the capacity, and do at times, destroy world grain prices.

Look at what imported pig meat has done to the Australian pig industry. We now rely on imports. I saw what the Danes did to the British pig industry in the fifties, decimated it. Took it years to recover. There is now talk of the EU importing milk from the US.

Have enjoyed the debate but again, we have something of the same debate going on in two places.

Hello Janet and Roger- good old battle going on here.Lee -this topic is still getting plenty of press and it seems that my worst fear is coming to pass. I read that the Govt and Cattle Council are belatedly going to police the IRA and enforce the "traceability " provisions of an Importing country.

Could it be a back door way of saying to the world -"adopt our NLIS or you can't trade here." The hippocracy of the afore mentioned and the double standard against us subsistance farmers is why I couldn't recognise any of your arguements no matter how sound or safe they may seem.

Roger has amply shown the danger of letting open slather happen and also shown that when the worst happens everyone runs for cover and that there will never be any fairness in the cure.Best to avoid all potential trouble at all costs .

Just had a quick run to Brisbane -took more wool down and was fortunate to get a guided tour of Aust Country Chioce Facility . They supply 70% of Coles supermart beef. In the last ten years they have developed probably the most state of the art plant in the world - I was amazed and I have seen thru a few too.

I have no doubt that they have quality control and provide a consistent young animal of a very high standard.The same could be said of what I know of Woolworths. The investment would be in the Billions and it is extremely efficient but I meekly pointed out that your raw material suppliers are being squeezed manly because they can be.I said that $2 per kg was my line in the sand for any company- otherwise no supply.I did note that there seemed to be a hand to mouth scramble to get their 5000 per week at the minute.

I heard that $6000 per deck in freight to get stock from WA was quite in order. This info is at odds with J.R. Mcdonalds claims of "cow beef". As it happens- I probably will have to take Lambs to Dubbo next week so won't get to the Armidale meeting unfortunately

The answer to all our squabbling is simple- No quality meat(animals) should sell below $2 liveweight and all the injustices would seem fairly minor then.This isn't a big ask when we see what price it is retailing at.

Come on ABA -lets become the old Cattlemans Union again and fight for our fair share of the beef pie.!
G'day Roger, forgive me for not dealing with this one earlier. I got distracted last night doing my ABA's Latest Free Trade in Lies post..
Firstly I assume you are referring to the circumstantial link between BSE and var CJD and not classic CJD
Some years ago classic CJD was shown to infect another human via blood transfusions, infected surgical instruments and Growth Hormone pituitary extracts from infected cadavers.

IT was anticipated that the same sources of human to human transmission might apply to varCJD. Subsequently it is now believed some 4 or 5 cases of varCJD have been transmitted through blood donations from carriers of varCJD that had not developed symptoms at the time of their blood donation .
Therefore I think it can be logically argued that this source of var CJD transmission is now a much greater source of new varCJD cases compared to the infinitesimally small chance of getting it through eating BSE infected beef { If you accept the circumstantial evidence }

I guess if you really wanted to eliminate all risk and attain ZERO risk, no blood should be accepted from the millions of Aussies who have lived in BSE affected countries since 1990 onwards. Currently there are approx 1 million Aussies overseas, a goodly proportion living in and eating beef in BSE affected countries. Do you think they should be banned as blood doners on their return to Australia? A ZERO risk policy would demand this.

I recently visited two of our children who work as Environmental Engineers in the UK and ate plenty of UK beef while I was there. Should I now be banned from giving blood because 12 cases of BSE were detected in the UK last year? I think not.

Also should Aussies currently travelling in BSE affected countries be warned off eating their beef? I believe not as the risk is unmeasurably low.

With regard to the processing history of the 1900 Tonnes of NZ beef imported into Aus annually, I am not sure but will try to find out.
REgards for now Lee mc Nicholl
Rob, good to see ACC being nice to you for a change. Harrasment obviously does pay!!

I will enjoy agreeing with you for a change. If this hysterical and farcical debate about blocking an avalanche of BSE infected US beef results in ratcheting up demands for cattle RFID "equivalence" in all our trading partners, the only winner will be Alflex. Producers will needlessly be lumbered with the cost and US producers were smart enough to see this and rejected RFID based NLIS.

THis is one of the reasons why I believe the ABA has been so hypocritical in this farce. They have argued long and hard against RFID-NLIS in Australia { and in the US} but are now prepared to demand a NO RFID -NO Access position. It's called running with the hares and hunting with the hounds. No room for logic or integrity here. Cheers from Lee Mc Nicholl
Mr 1% again seems to be getting it wrong after 6 months suspension from the ABA board he is now completely out of touch with reality on ABA policy.While I am relieved that I do not have to spend hours on the phone listening to complaints from Mr 1% when he was on the board. It seems his new found arena for expressing his rather illogical agenda of bringing down the ABA is Agmates.
For the record Mr 1% I am extemely dissapointed at the Coalition putting forward a private members bill based on equivalency of our NLIS.As you know Mr 1% our NLIS has a accuracy rate of 66% and stops at the knocking box(no trace forward)so offers no guarentees to the consumer .
I will look forward to finding out who is responsible for drafting this Bill and debating them in Armidale.More importantly I will look forward to debating those those have sold out Australian Beef producers by backing the importation of beef from BSE infected countries.
I may not be able to boast a university degree or your level of financial success in the beef industry Mr 1% but my God am I angry.
Hello Mr. 99% , I am glad you have found time to tear yourself away from writing lie based Press Releases and " have another crack" on Agmates. Given that I was one of the main driving forces { before expulsion} behind the ABA's high quality audit that demolished our NLIS, you don't have to lecture me about that outcome.

Might I suggest that if the ABA had any strategic thinking skills they would anticipated that the CCA, The MLA and the Coalition would ratchet up global NLIS as their way out of this farce.
I saw it coming as soon as the ABA started bagging US beef.

Also given that you support absolute ZERO risk, will you stop eating US beef on future trips to that great cattle producing country ? Furthermore will you refuse to accept blood from any Aussie that has eaten beef in a Controlled Risk Country since 1990?

I recall you have a fascination with Mohammed ALi's " Rumble in the Jungle". Well I am really looking foward to the "Arm Wrestle at Armidale". I am not going to "get angry" just even with folks who refuse to argue consistently by the rules of Logic 101. I did Logic in years 11-12 at High School. I did not need to go to UNI to pass a subject in critical thinking.

In closing, would you believe my reply was interrupted by a call from an ABA member who is pissed off with your BSE beat up and associated collateral damage to the wider beef indusrty. They are not renewing their membership. I suggested they ring the ABA office and express their anger. They to are angry and want to get even with the ABA.

See you in Armidale. I'll be in the Blue Corner. Lee Mc Nicholl
Those who believe we can compete with the treasuries of other nations are having a bit of a lend of themselves, inviting ruin for our people, was than you Jannet.

Roger you have a great handle on the realities we all confront in international trade and practical issues to with farm production and trying to make profits, If it came to who has the compehension to develop a policy setting to attain some level of stability and a realistic vision for the future of our farming industries, as a farmer battling all the vagaries of production and markets, I would not want someone who is happy to take unnecessay risks advocting for me, especially if that person has no interest in my financial well being.

Sadly Lee Mcn, on this issue of taking risks, you apear to be far less conservative than i thought, the precautinary principal has proven to be a success and should be the backbone of our import policy.

For those who would like to take the risk, "the risk takers", would you like to indemnify the rest of us by indicating you will be liable for any clean up or economic loss which may occur if the risk is indeed crystalised with an import failure. Put your families livelihood on thats a good punt , don't you think
Rowell, I moved from the US to Australia because I believe in the industry here. With freedom, we can compete. I was willing to put my money where my mouth is. Unfortunately, it's government regulation that has ruined me. Not competition from any other country or any other product, for that matter.

Would you be willing to indemnify me if our export markets are closed as a result of the discovery of a random disease in one animal in Australia because we did not open up this market when the science said we should? This is by far the greater risk, and I will gladly insure against your perceived risk if you will insure against mine!
Hi Janet, firstly go easy on Rowell as he is an old drinking mate of mine from about 40klm away as the crow flies. Would you believe he left WA with a young family an lit out across the Nullabour before setting up in the fertile Brigalow lands of Qld. If he was still in WA I am sure you would enjoy his company while having some very animated debates.

Being from the USA you are only too well aware that the US has never had a single indigenous case of "typical" BSE. The US has recorded one "typical" case of BSE in an imported Canadian dairy cow. Two "atypical" cases have been recorded in 12 yo cows from Texas and Alabahma.

"Atypical" cases in older cattle are believed to arise spontaneously like classical CJD in older humans . It is also believed that the "atypical" form exists in all cattle populations. If we looked hard enough in Australia there is a very good chance that we would find it. The question then becomes
who would indeminify yours and my export based livelihood?

Under these circumstances, is it reasonable to assume that the US would act reasonably in respect of Aussie exports when the Aussie "protectionist" lobby is doing it's very best to trash the reputation of US beef and in so doing inflict serious collateral damage on the international beef trade ?

I suspect Uncle Sam will not be that magnanamous. Cheers from Lee Mc Nicholl
I am a bit curious as your statement-

Unfortunately, it's government regulation that has ruined me. Not competition from any other country or any other product, for that matter.

The dynamics of the WA cattle industry from what I hear are a lot tougher than over here. From a buy in price for feeders-I imagine it is less.It seems that people are willing to pay$150per head to get them across here rather than compete too hard locally.

A lot of feedlots have had a tough couple of years on this side and I've heard of $100 per head losses that have to be washed out in future turnover. This can only be sustained by the big players who have the ability to cross subsidise and vertically integrate.

These few biggies are multi -nationals. This highly emotive topic of BSE and Free Trade and Protectionism is all theory.The world is one big play ground to them and national borders are only defined by a point of difference such as this present barrier.

Meat is meat and the world needs it and the world will get it. This "clean Green " bit of sales pitch was designed by MLA,Cattle Council as a point of difference along with the mongrel NLIS Scheme and now the same want to back Flip- in effect making a joke of what B.S. they put us through.

Speaking of "risks"- If we were to get a Bse case we would just join the rest and like the rest (because we need and like protein) we would continue as normal. Until then lets have the guts to be independant for once.

Take the Lamb Market. In the last two days a major processor on Vic has gone over and JBS Swift who already own a couple of plants just bought Tatiara Meat Co (the previously largest) and Aust Country fresh with two big plants has just been bought by T&R a large existing one from S.A.

We have to take note of what is going on under our noses- not phylosophy about maybies. Govt regulation in my opinion is an irritation and a waist of money and the levy is a tax but it is these margins (30-40cents liveweight in my case) that make the real difference. Profitability shouldn't be about who has the most muscle(buying power) but it is.

A relevant fact to this debate .A company here in Aust has the world wide supply of Heart valves extracted from cattle for the non surgical fitting into humans. A wonderful idea to benefit all. WHY HERE- the cattle must be from a BSE free country,no more than two tooth and Grain fed.

As with the blood donors -the doctors seem to be taking it a bit more seriously!

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