Last year a type of avian flu was found in the US that led to the deaths of about 50 million U.S. chickens and turkeys. To stop the movement of the disease, Dr. John Clifford, deputy administrator of the federal Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, testified that 42 million chickens and 7.5 million turkeys were killed. Those numbers equal 10 percent of the egg-laying hens in the entire United States, and 3 percent of the turkeys. Massive losses of poultry wreaked havoc on egg prices and sent prices skyrocketing scrambling the US food industries.
The cost of those lost birds, according to economist Thomas Elam of the Indiana-based consulting group FarmEcon, was $1.57 billion—but the further costs to businesses that support farms, to egg and poultry wholesalers, and to food service firms, pushed the loss to $3.3 billion. In addition, Clifford said, the US Department of Agriculture committed $500 million to emergency efforts to block the disease, and paid out $190 million to farmers whose birds were destroyed.
The Iowa study, conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions of Urbandale, Iowa, found that the avian flu outbreaks around the state—mostly caused by H5N2—resulted in 8,444 lost jobs, many of which will not be recovered. Termed as the worst bird flu outbreak in US history, it created a huge debate regarding the fundamentally unsustainable farming practises in US.
To prevent the disease from entering into the Indian market India had already banned the import of frozen chicken legs from the U.S. to stop the spread of this deadly avian influenza. The US raised a dispute with the WTO.
“India’s ban on U.S. poultry is clearly a case of disguising trade restrictions by invoking unjustified animal health concerns,” US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement. “We are confident that the WTO will confirm that India’s ban is unjustified.”
A separate statement from US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack claimed that the United States had repeatedly sought scientific evidence for the import restrictions.
“Countries have the right to impose certain restrictions,” said Alex Thiermann, President of the OIE Code Commission. However, he added that “the code very clearly says that low pathogenic influenza allows for trade.”
A WTO panel confirmed in June 2015 an earlier ruling that India’s ban was not based on international scientific standards, was more trade restrictive than necessary, and unfairly discriminated against U.S. imports. India was given until June 2016 to lift the ban and follow international standards. Along with it India was to be slapped with a penalty of $450 million per year for failing to comply with a World Trade Organization ruling.
As to why India lost this seems pretty interesting:
What is shocking to note is that as officials from both countries are negotiating to conclude an agreement in the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue going on in New Delhi, the same type of avian flu that led to the deaths of about 50 million U.S. chickens and turkeys last year has been found again in US for the first time in 14 months, and confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA said it detected the H5N2 strain of the disease in a wild duck in Alaska as part of surveillance testing it has been conducting on birds since last year’s devastating outbreak.
The Indian poultry sector have already raised these concerns regarding chicken raised on genetically modified (GM) corn and soya as feed being dumped on the Indian market. What this means is that if the ban is lifted as a result of these negotiations, the US won’t have to kill the chickens or turkeys in case of a flu outbreak as it did in 2015. Instead millions of chickens and turkey that had to be killed in 2015 and which cost the US $3.3 billion dollars could now be exported to India.
Shelley Kasli for GreatGameIndia – India’s only quarterly magazine on Geopolitics & International Relations.
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