Taipei, May 11 (CNA) An impromptu motion to discuss banning U.S. beef imports was voted down in the Legislature on Friday for the third time since the discovery of a new mad cow disease case in the United States last month.
Lawmakers voted 52-45 against the proposal to immediately pull U.S. beef from store shelves and stop all beef imports from that country.
It marked the third time that the Legislature voted against putting the U.S. beef issue on the agenda, following a confirmed case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), in California on April 24.
In the previous two votes, the motion was rejected 45-44 and 50-44.
The motion was put forward each time by opposition party legislators, who number slightly fewer than ruling Kuomintang lawmakers. Of the 113 seats in the Legislature, the KMT holds 64.
"Love your children, say no to mad cow disease," opposition lawmakers shouted, after the motion was defeated for the third time.
Earlier in the week, a Cabinet proposal to allow residues of the livestock drug ractopamine in U.S. beef was narrowly defeated in a legislative committee.
However, the legislative caucuses agreed that the bill will be put to a vote again in a plenary session at a later date.
Since President Ma Ying-jeou's re-election in January, his administration had been eager to lift the ban on ractopamine, a leanness enhancing livestock feed additive.
But local civic groups and some health specialists have argued that ractopamine poses unidentified health risks and have accused the government of compromising the nation's health in the interest of diplomatic gains.
Imports of U.S. beef have been a sore point in trade ties between Taipei and Washington for many years.
Taiwan first banned U.S. beef imports in 2003 when a case of BSE was reported in the state of Washington. In April 2005, Taiwan re-opened its market to imports of boneless U.S. beef from cattle under 30 months old, but imposed another ban in June 2005 when a second U.S. case of BSE was reported.
Imports of boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age were resumed in 2006 and of bone-in beef in late 2009. Washington has been pressing for wider opening and, more recently, has been lobbying strongly for Taiwan to lift its ban on beef containing ractopamine residues.
(By Nancy Liu)