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Felice

The Roquefort Tax

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The US Government recently announced that it will triple the already high 100% duty applied to the import of Roquefort cheese in retaliation for the European Union's refusal to import hormone-fed beef.

Is it fair to tax one particular product--although high taxes were levied on hundreds of other products as well, but from what I have read, the famous bleu is the only one with a 300% tariff--in order to punish Europe for not wanting hormone-fed beef?

An Article from the Times

And another from Time


www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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It seems to me it really comes down to a question of process. France claims there are health risks from hormone-treated beef. The US claims these risks are not supported by science. Because both France and the US operate under trade agreements including WTO jurisdiction, the ban would be justified if based on science and not justified if not scientifically based.

To take another example, let's say France decided that some US-grown product -- say, Florida oranges -- cannot be imported on the grounds that little spirits living in the oranges might escape in France and frighten children. Would the US be justified in retaliating against that ban? Of course -- every rational person would say it's fair to retaliate in some way, because the ban is clearly not scientifically justified.

So who gets to decide? I'm not an expert on trade agreements, but as I understand it these disputes are taken before the WTO. The last time I read anything about this, the WTO had ruled that there is no scientific basis for the ban on hormone-treated beef. Now, of course, if French consumers don't want to buy the beef then that's their choice. But to ban it from entering the country was not considered justifiable by the WTO, as far as I know.

In a system governed by reciprocal arrangements, there has to be some standard. Otherwise either party can raise any justification for banning a product, and there will be no way to challenge it. Such a system, absent extreme good faith, will eventually collapse.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It may not be fair, but I admit laughing out loud when I heard what W had done. An amusing end to an non-amusing Presidency.

I applaud the French makers of Roquefort for sending Obama a big wheel of the stuff.

For the record, I consider Roquefort to be the best blue cheese in the universe. Stilton is a close second.

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Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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The problem with Fat Guy's argument is that he apparently assumes, as we'd all like to, that "science" is some kind of neutral reality. In fact "scientific" pronouncements are often profoundly influenced by politics and policy. The WTO is using some sort of "scientific" claim to pursue its goals, which do not include environmental and health protection. Witness their stand on GMO. The French vehemently and sometimes violently oppose GMO products, and I'm sure they're not the WTO's favorite country when it comes to these matters.

I've never seen anywhere such an obsession with the cleanliness and purity of food products as I have since I've been living in France. People here really do not want any mystery components in what they eat. And I don't think they give a flying flip for the WTO's "science."

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It may not be fair, but I admit laughing out loud when I heard what W had done. An amusing end to an non-amusing Presidency.

...

I still find it amusing that importation of different cheese types into the USA is controlled (permitted or banned) under the Bioterrorism Act.

http://www.agobservatory.org/headlines.cfm?refID=31428

Maybe some legislators do have a sense of humour!


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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It may not be fair, but I admit laughing out loud when I heard what W had done. An amusing end to an non-amusing Presidency.

...

I still find it amusing that importation of different cheese types into the USA is controlled (permitted or banned) under the Bioterrorism Act.

http://www.agobservatory.org/headlines.cfm?refID=31428

Maybe some legislators do have a sense of humour!

Great article from the Ag Observatory, and that one's from five years ago.

My blue cheese stash is in the fridge inside Ziploc bags inside a Tupperware container. My wife would agree that it has bioterrorism potential.


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Let's remember, it is not France who made this ruling but rather the EU. The EU banned growth hormones from its own beef and therefore refused to import beef with synthetic growth hormones. The WTO found that the EU did not provide enough scientific evidence that the hormones were a risk and therefore could not ban US beef. When the EU did not comply the US and Canada were permitted to slap retaliatory tariffs.

But Fat Guy has a point, why not let EU consumers decide if they want beef with synthetic hormones?

I know the Ptipois recently posted about buying US beef, so evidently US beef is allowed, as long as it adheres to the same standards set for EU beef.

My problem with this tariff is that it seems to penalise Roquefort farmers in particular for some reason.

In tribute to the Roquefort cheese makers I bought this AOC raw milk Roquefort on my way home last night.

gallery_7346_2565_13102.jpg

In light of all this, how much does it cost to buy Roquefort in the US?


www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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Roquefort right now runs about $30-$40 a pound, depending on the Roquefort. I think Papillon at Zabar's is $35 at the moment. However, those prices do not reflect the new duty, which does not go into effect until March. Part of the US strategy is the hope that the threat of the new duties will create the incentive for a negotiated settlement, although that could also backfire.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Conversely, isn't the US ban on raw milk cheeses not based on science, and therefore an unfair trade barrier?

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There is no US ban on raw-milk cheeses. Unpasteurized cheese is legal in the US if it has been aged 60 days under refrigeration. And while I think the regulation is overbroad, the fact of the matter is that the FDA used evidence-based cost-benefit analysis in determining those regulations. I think if you went before the WTO and tried to argue that the 60-day rule is not supported by any scientific analysis, they'd probably laugh you out of the room. There are arguments against the 60-day rule for cheese, but it's based on a defensible scientific premise. The issue with the EU ban on hormone-treated beef is that when the WTO heard the case the EU didn't even try to submit any scientific evidence. Even a decade later, there just isn't a good study to put forward. People yell and scream and get very emotional about hormones, but when it comes to evidence there is little or none, especially with respect to the endogenous hormones that are in meat anyway.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In tribute to the Roquefort cheese makers I bought this AOC raw milk Roquefort on my way home last night. 

In light of all this, how much does it cost to buy Roquefort in the US?

So what did it cost per kilo or pound?

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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The issue with the EU ban on hormone-treated beef is that when the WTO heard the case the EU didn't even try to submit any scientific evidence. Even a decade later, there just isn't a good study to put forward. People yell and scream and get very emotional about hormones, but when it comes to evidence there is little or none, especially with respect to the endogenous hormones that are in meat anyway.

The demand for scientific evidence seems a bit hypocritical. There is probably no way to submit a valid scientific evidence when it comes to food since the effects of any additive may not be measurable for years, sometimes many years. Scientific testing may yield no significant results in the short run because it would need many years of regular repeated testing to deliver the evidence of a danger. Of course one could find a few counterexamples of what I am saying here, but the ill-effects of some additives in food and drink have most of the time been discovered a posteriori, never a priori, generally when it is too late and people have died or suffered slowly-built harm. And the connection between recently-appeared diseases and the alteration of foods or water is also discovered when it is too late.

So the question is not "has the scientific testing been done" but "what has been searched exactly and according to what criteria", and also "was it possible to know everything from the start".

That is precisely why we have, in France, a rule which is called "principe de précaution", defined at the 1992 Rio Convention, and legally officialized by a famous law in 1995:

"The absence of certainty, taken account of the current scientific and technical knowledge, should not delay the adoption of effective and proportionate measures aiming to prevent, at a reasonable cost, any risk of serious and irreversible damage to public health and environment".

I do not know right now if this principle is also present in EU regulations but I would not be surprised if it were. It may even be more acute on EU level than on French level.

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But Fat Guy has a point, why not let EU consumers decide if they want beef with synthetic hormones?

Because if there is suspected potential harm, in the light of the Precaution Principle, the matter should normally be settled before the food reaches the consumer. It is not a matter of "letting the consumer decide" but of public health. It is also, secondarily, a matter of profitability.

Indeed no one in Europe and certainly not in France will buy beef that bears the label "from animals bred with synthetic hormones". And since that kind of labeling would be mandatory, there you go.

It is ironically regrettable that the item that is suffering from this decision is a centuries-old, traditionally-made, often organic, naturally fermented and - apart from being tasty - sane and healthy type of cheese that is obtained at the end of a long and careful process, just because some want to sell meat that has been produced using means based on pure greed.

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The precautionary principle exists in the US too, but it's generally applied to the benefit of the producer. The idea of the WTO as a scientific arbiter is laughable, or would be if it weren't so tragic.

If you look here, on the WTO's own website, nowhere in their Trading Principles is concern for the environment or public health to be found. In fact, according to the same website here, there is no specific agreement on environment. As to health, look here to see that they state flat out that they do not make official pronouncements to protect public health. In fact, they state that governments are free to set their own standards.

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...

My problem with this tariff is that it seems to penalise Roquefort farmers in particular for some reason. 

...

How many other cheeses favoured by those famous "monkeys", and not already banned "because of Bioterrorism threat", do you think they could name ??? :biggrin:

Its selected purely for its recognition value as a symbol.

Not because of the commercial value of the trade.


Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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