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Canada requests review of South Korea's beef ban

TORONTO (AP)--The Canadian government requested July 9 a World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel to review South Korea's ongoing ban on importing Canadian beef.

Minister of International Trade Stockwell Day said discussions with South Korea in May did not result in any changes to the Asian nation's ban, which has been in place since 2003.

"This government has made it clear to South Korea that we will defend Canadian ranchers, and I delivered that point in person during my trip to Seoul in March 2009. The international scientific community recognizes that Canadian beef is safe, and we are confident a WTO dispute panel would rule in our favor,'' said Gerry Ritz, minister of agriculture.

South Korea banned imports of Canadian beef after bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE, was discovered in a Canadian cow in 2003. Before the ban, South Korea was Canada's fourth-largest beef export market, valued at 50 million Canadian dollars ($43 million) in 2002.

In 2003, the World Organization for Animal Health concluded Canadian beef and cattle were safe for international trade after the country implemented measures to mitigate and eradicate the disease from its stocks.

Canada encountered about 14 cases of BSE in cattle since 2003, but the Canadian Food Inspection Agency maintained there was no risk to public health since none of the 14 cows entered the human food systems.

The OIE reconfirmed Canadian beef was safe in May of 2008 and 2009.

Day said the WTO panel will be asked to determine whether South Korea's six-year ban on Canadian beef is consistent with its international trade obligations under the WTO.

South Korea lifted its 4 1/2 year-ban on U.S. beef imports last year. It closed its market to U.S. beef following the first U.S. case of BSE in a Canadian-born cow in Washington state in 2003.

BSE causes spongy holes in the brain. In people, a rare but fatal form of the disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has been linked to eating infected tissue from cows.

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