NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Europe's Ban On U.S. Beef: Science Or Protectionism?

February 18, 1999

For a decade, the European Union has barred imports of beef from cattle that were given hormones -- which is almost 95 percent of the beef produced in the U.S. While it's true that European consumers are suspicious of additives, modern livestock feeding techniques and biotechnology in general, trade experts suspect the EU is using these fears as an excuse to shelter its own cattle industry from competition.

  • The EU's own scientists have twice proclaimed hormones used to speed weight gain in livestock are not harmful.
  • Two World Trade Organization rulings have declared the EU has no scientific basis to ban beef treated with hormones.
  • The EU has until May 13 to bring its beef regulations in line with the WTO rulings.
  • The prohibition costs the $36 billion U.S. beef industry about $300 million in annual exports.

The U.S. government says the EU must drop its ban by the deadline or face 100 percent duties on hundreds of millions of dollars of exports.

The EU counters that May 13 is merely the date by which it must wrap up new scientific studies of the six hormones used by the U.S. cattle industry. They say their studies won't be completed until the year 2000, and insist any penalties would violate WTO rules.

The U.S. exported $2.1 billion worth of beef in the first 11 months of 1998 -- primarily to Japan, Mexico, Canada, South Korea and Hong Kong.

Source: James Cox, "What's the Beef?" USA Today, February 18, 1999.


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