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China Seeks Data on U.S. Mad Cow Cases Before Imports

China, the biggest buyer of U.S. agricultural products, said it needs more information from its trading partner on the outbreaks of mad cow diseases before granting access to its beef market.

U.S. officials haven’t shared all the epidemiology data with China on four cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, since 2003, Vice Agriculture Minister Niu Dun said in an interview in Beijing. Niu repeated that China hopes for an agreement on U.S. beef by July, while also seeking the removal of barriers to exports of Chinese poultry.

China has boosted annual beef imports from other countries, including Australia, to $1.3 billion from $15.5 million in 2003, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. The two nations also remain deadlocked on poultry trade after China in December began re-investigating claims U.S. chicken had been subsidized and sold below cost.

“If the U.S. doesn’t give the information to us, and we can’t do the evaluation, then I can’t allow imports,” Niu said, adding he is directly involved in the negotiations. He didn’t elaborate on the specific information that’s lacking.

“China’s beef imports have reached a new and much larger plateau level that will likely persist in the coming years,” Joel Haggard, vice president of the U.S. meat federation, wrote in e-mail today.

The U.S. also didn’t give sufficient information to China to explain the case of unapproved gene-altered wheat grown on an Oregon farm, Niu said.

A genetically altered strain that was developed by Monsanto Co. and found in an Oregon field in April hasn’t been found on any other farms, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in June.

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