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Legislature to hold extra session next week to resolve U.S. beef issue

2012/06/16 15:17:48

Taipei, June 16 (CNA) Taiwan's legislature will hold an extra session next week to deal with the issue of U.S. beef imports containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said Saturday.

An inter-party negotiation is scheduled on Monday to decide the time for the extra session, Wang said, adding that it could be held on June 19, at the earliest.

The extra session was an idea proposed by the caucus of the ruling party Kuomintang, as the legislature failed to put the beef issue to a vote before the current session ended on Friday.

The vote on whether to lift the ractopamine ban on U.S. beef imports was scheduled on June 12, but lawmakers from the opposition parties -- mainly the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) -- had occupied the stage of the legislature to boycott the session since June 11.

Legislators of the DPP, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) and the People First Party (PFP) have cited food safety concerns as the main reason for their opposition to the government's plan to lift the ractopamine ban.

The beef issue, which is related to amendments to a food safety act, has been stalled for a period of time, Wang said, adding that he hopes the amendments will be passed during the extra session.

DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming, however, reiterated his party will "face the battle directly" in the extra session.

If put to a vote, the amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation are likely to clear the floor of the legislature, where the KMT holds a majority of 64 seats.

The DPP has 40 seats in the 113-member legislature, while the TSU and the PFP each hold three seats.

The U.S. beef issue has been hotly debated in Taiwan over the past few months.

In March, the government decided to conditionally lift the ban on U.S. beef imports, saying Taiwan would specify a safe level of ractopamine, issue separate permits for the import of beef and pork, mandate the labeling of beef imports and exclude imports of beef organs.

Government officials have argued that the decision factors in public health and that there is no scientific evidence of people having fallen ill after consuming meat containing "certain allowed levels" of ractopamine.

(By Elaine Hou)