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Animal disease declining, but vigilance urged

December 10, 2001 USA Today by Anita Manning
The animal disease epidemics that have been so disastrous to farmers and politicians in Europe appear to be coming to an end without having infected American livestock. But U.S. agricultural agents must maintain relentless vigilance, says Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.

Mad cow disease fell to 526 cases this year in the United Kingdom, down from 37,280 in 1992. And the U.K. hasn't seen a new case of highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease since Sept. 30. Neither disease has been detected in the USA, but "it's not accurate to say we've dodged a bullet," Veneman said Friday. Detection of plant and animal diseases must be matched with closely monitored systems for checking their spread.

Last week, for example, agriculture inspectors detected live Mediterranean fruit fly larvae -- the bane of fruit and vegetable growers -- in shipments of clementines, a citrus fruit imported from Spain to markets in Louisiana, North Carolina and Maryland. The USDA promptly banned sale of clementines in any state where the medfly could survive.

A three-year study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, released Nov. 30, looked at the chances that mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE) could sweep across America as it did the U.K. and Europe. It concluded that the United States is "highly resistant" to the disease, thanks to import restrictions imposed in 1989.

If it ever did get into the country's livestock, the report says, it is "extremely unlikely" that it could become established because of U.S. restrictions, enacted in 1997, on the content of feed given to cattle, sheep and goats.

Some scientists believe BSE emerged in England out of a common practice of fortifying animal feed with protein supplements made from ground up bits of other animals. During the 1990s, it spread across the U.K. and into Europe, which had imported cattle feed from England.

Loopholes in the feed regulations and spotty inspections still leave U.S. agriculture vulnerable, says John Stauber of the Center for Media & Democracy and co-author of Mad Cow U.S.A. (Common Courage Press, $ 24.95, or free at www.prwatch .org). "With diseases, you're never out of the woods unless they're eradicated.

"We went to school on the U.K. experience," says Jim Hodges, president of the American Meat Institute Foundation, "and it gave us a leg up."


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Organic Consumers Association - 6771 South Silver Hill Drive, Finland MN 55603
E-mail: Staff · Activist or Media Inquiries: 218-226-4164 · Fax: 218-353-7652
Please support our work. Send a tax-deductible donation to the OCA

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.
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