Scientific Cross-Claims Fly in Continuing Beef War

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Science  28 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5419, pp. 1453-1455
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5419.1453

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In support of its 10-year-old ban on imports of hormone-treated beef, late last month, the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, issued a 139-page report raising what it claims are new concerns about the safety of hormone residues in beef. Based on the work of a nine-member panel of European and U.S.-based endocrinologists, toxicologists, and other scientists, the report argues, among other things, that the residues might have cancer-causing potential and that young children might be more sensitive to low levels of the hormones than previously thought. These conclusions are themselves coming under fire, however, and the United States and Canada contend that the ban is based more on a desire to protect European farmers from American imports than on scientifically valid evidence of health risks.