Thursday, July 3, 2014

Catfish And Karma

Striped eel catfish, Plotosus lineatus.
Photo by J. Petersen taken in Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Apparently, in addition to no longer manufacturing much, the US doesn't produce enough catfish to satisfy demand, and so imports a great deal of Asian-raised catfish. Particularly from Vietnam.
As with so many other items imported from the low-wage areas of the world, Vietnamese catfish are cheaper than American-produced ones. And the squeeze is putting some US commercial producers out of business. So, to slow or stop the flow of imported catfish, producers are demanding that catfish be tested before being allowed for sale in the US.
Originally a specialized catfish inspection office was to have been set up in 2009, but despite appropriations of $15 to $17 million, no catfish has yet been tested for banned or harmful substances. It seems that even the varieties of catfish to be tested haven't yet been decided upon.
Now, according to U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss) "In recent years, imports from Southeast Asia have been found to contain dangerous chemicals and substances banned for use in the United States." However, their press release simply makes the claim without any information to back it up. But the newly passed Farm Bill insists that testing begin within the year regardless.
Normally Vietnam and other Asian catfish producers wouldn't have much of a chance against what looks to be protectionist non-tariff legislation. But the US administration (like the Canadian federal government) is hot to pass the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a highly-secret trade agreement which we, the public, only know about because of the Edward Snowden mega-leak. So the non-American producers are using the pending agreement to push back against the threat of protectionist inspection.
If the Vietnamese catfish are actually carrying a toxic load, it is not unlikely that some of that load is from the appalling volume of high explosive and chemicals dropped on the country by...the United States. Kind of karmic, really.

Articles referenced in creating this post: 
The Catfish Wars Could Derail U.S.-Asia Trade
Millions of Dollars Later, America’s Catfish Are No Safer to Eat
Cochran & Wicker press Commerce Dept. To Maintain Fair Trade Decision For U.S. Catfish

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