Agriculture minister must resign for misgovernment on BSE issue -- Akahata editorial, March 29 (excerpts)

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is to blame for its serious failure to prevent Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) from breaking out in Japan. It is essential to restore public trust in government measures on food safety.

As the draft of the government panel report (to be issued early in April) referred to, the point is how the government delayed its ban on the use of meat and bone meal which caused the epidemic.

The EU banned the use of meat and bone meal in 1994, the U.S.A. and Australia following the suit in 1997. Japan didn't prohibit it until September 2001, only after an outbreak of cow infection with BSE.

Japan's Agriculture Ministry ignored the April 1996 WHO recommendation banning the use of meat and bone meal and took administrative steps instead of legislative ones. It was a serious case of misgovernment.

It was also a serious misjudgment when in 2001 the ministry formally rejected an EU offer of a status assessment of Japan.

If the ministry had made public the content of draft EU assessments that were sent to Japan between November 2000 to April 2001, and had taken urgent steps, Japan would not have faced such great social chaos immediately after the outbreak of mad cow disease.

The Koizumi Cabinet is responsible for the matter, too. It was on June 15, 2001, just after the inauguration of his cabinet that Japan officially rejected the EU assessment offer.

Therefore, Agriculture Minister Takebe Tsutomu has serious responsibility in the case.

He approved the ministry's rejection of an EU assessment without reading the May 8, 2001 letter from an EU commission pointing to the possibility of outbreaks of BSE in Japan.

Such an attitude of Takebe increased damage from BSE.

If Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro thinks that the government is responsible for the BSE case, he should not support Takebe anymore.

In order to reestablish consumers' and producers' trust in the safety of foods, Agriculture Minister Takebe must immediately resign. (end)