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No backdown from Federal Government on lifting BSE ban

The Federal Government maintains that it'll go ahead and open Australia's borders to beef from BSE-affected countries from Monday, despite a swirl of media and political pressure.

In response to Opposition concerns, Federal Trade Minister Simon Crean says states or regions wanting to export beef to Australia will need to have traceability systems in place.

While some beef producers have questioned it, Mr Crean says the move to lift the ban was driven by Australia's cattle industry.

"I have a letter from the Red Meat Advisory Council, that represents all of the peak bodies, urging us, and I'll read it to you're if you're interested - this was on the 18th of September last year - 'RMAC endorsed its opposition to the BSE certification rules currently operating in Australia'."

Despite assurances from the Federal Government, many graziers remain wary of the looming change to imports from BSE affected countries.

Grazier Gary Radford owns a number of properties in South Australia and Broken Hill, and is concerned about traceability, education and the speed of the change.

He says the risk that something could go wrong is still too high.

"Doesn't matter whether it's bananas or other importation, once you get that bug into Australia it's very, very hard to get out," he says.

"And of course with no traceability, definitely no genuine traceability, Australia really has a problem."

Meanwhile, a statutory pest management body in NSW has delivered a letter to the Federal Government, calling for beef imports from BSE-infected countries to be rejected.

The Cumberland Livestock Health and Pest Authority says it's not just BSE that people need to worry about, claiming chronic wasting disease, which is found in much of North America, is also a threat.

Senior livestock veterinarian for the Cumberland LHPA, Keith Hart, says government protocols will not protect Australia from being infected.

"There is no way you could put a protocol in place that would minimise the risk until the science is known. It might be 10 years or more."

www.abc.net.au/rural

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