On Saturday 2 January, the debate saw candidates in Taiwan’s 2016 presidential election argue over whether they would lift a ban on the use of the leanness-enhancer ractopamine – a drug that is banned in around 160 countries including the EU, Russia and China.
The three party leaders – Eric Chu of Kuomintang (KMT), Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and James Soon of People First Party (PFP) – debated a number of issues including whether Taiwan should import pork from the US.
Eric Chu of KMT argued that Taiwan should not be too quick to lift the ban on ractopamine, saying: “We should let the US know that we are opposed to importing pork produced with ractopamine.”
He also attacked the DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen for “flip-flopping” on her party’s stance on ractopamine.
Tsai is largely seen as the front-runner to win the presidential election on 16 January and has previously called for Taiwan to relax its rules on ractopamine and start importing US pork – as its neighbours Japan and South Korea do.
Her stance drew strong condemnation from local pig farmers, who argued that opening the country’s market to US pork would pose a risk to consumers. The union governing pig farmers in Taiwan also threatened to go on strike if the ban was lifted, according to the regional publication News Xinhuanet.
This led Tsai to stress at the televised debate on 2 January that she would work to “protect Taiwanese pig farmers” and would “never sacrifice the benefits of local pig farmers”. However, Tsai would not confirm where she would or wouldn’t lift the ban of the drug and allow US imports of pork into the country.
Under Taiwanese law, the use of ractopamine in domestic and imported pork is banned. It’s still used in around 24 countries including the US, according to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).