Thursday, June 30, 2005

fyi U.S. lags in effort to create animal ID system


Pointer to article:,10801,102754,00.html?source=NLT_DM&nid=102754

Kobielus kommentary:
Hmmmmm…a national registry, identification scheme, tracking system, and regulations for branding livestock that doesn’t involve pressing a red-hot iron into their flesh.

This is another subtopic in the “identity of things,” in which case the “things” are the beasts from which we derive an important class of dietary proteins. And another potential use of RFID, which is becoming the identifier for every tangible and edible “thing” imaginable.

If I understand correctly, these RFID animal tags would allow us to track every individual head of livestock from the moment they’re born to the moment they’re slaughtered (or otherwise shuffle off to animal heaven), primarily to make sure that the infection routes for any disease to which they might have been exposed are made crystal clear and appropriate quarantining, notification, destruction, and other emergency response and remediation activities can be targeted with swift and brutal efficiency. And, I suppose, so that 21st century rustlers can be more rapidly found out and brought to justice.

Something tells me that this initiative will bog down quickly into a huge political range war, pitting the feds (who want ranchers/farmers to tag and track every thing that trots, waddles, or flaps its silly wings) and the ranchers/farmers (who’ll want to turn a profit, avoid major new unfunded mandates, and resist having “them damn bureaucrats in Washington” intruding more deeply into how they manage their operations and inventory).

This initiative will, no doubt, be called the “mad cow tag program” or something to that effect. My guess is that RFID tags will ultimately be rejected as too cumbersome and expensive. Instead, I'm in favor of requiring ranchers/farmers to take DNA samples from their animals’ mouths/ears/etc—-upon birth, transportation, and death--and then send those to some central FDA-mandated lab for DNA fingerprinting, registration, and tracking. That way, individual animals don’t need to have RFID tags branded into their hides or hung around their necks or whatever. When a “mad cow” or similar disease breaks out, the diseased animals will have DNA swabs taken and sent to the central lab, which will then figure out what other livestock came into contact with them where when and how. And then the appropriate alarms/quarantines can be issued to target those other possible infection vectors, wherever they happen to be.

Such an approach saves the rancher/farmer from having to “brand” their animals or buy/install/operate RFID receivers and RFID-based inventory-tracking systems. Thereby helping them keep costs as low as possible.

Politically, the folks in Washington have always succumbed to the rancher/farmer lobby. The last thing the pols want to do is force another expensive unfunded mandate on this particular industry. Prairie populism is always a smouldering brush fire in the USA.