As I touched on in my last post, Two UC schools to study food safety, the US government is investing a further $2 million to enhance research on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or “mad cow disease“) and $5 million to establish a Food Safety Research and Response Network.
Agriculture secretary Mike Johanns says:
“In a rapidly changing world marketplace, science is the universal language that must guide our rules and policies, rather than subjectivity or politics,” said . “Expanding our research efforts to improve the understanding of BSE and other food-related illness pathogens will strengthen the security of our nation’s food supply. These projects will help improve food safety by enhancing our research partnerships with the academic community and establish another tool to aid our response to food-related disease outbreaks.”
The further investment signals the United States’ determination to guarantee complete safety of its beef supply in order to regain lost US beef export markets. Japan for example banned US beef and beef products after a single case of BSE in an 8-year-old cow imported into the United States from Canada was detected in December 2003.
The US is now calling on Japan to remove its restrictions on US beef and beef products immediately, in accordance with the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures.
The announcement of further investment is therefore a further step in the battle to convince former markets that the most stringent BSE safeguards are in place.
The BSE research funds will be used for new BSE projects and facilities and build upon President Bush’s fiscal year 2006 budget proposal, which would increase BSE research by $7.3 million or 155 per cent over 2005 funding levels.
The newly funded projects include international collaborations with the Veterinary Laboratory Agency in the UK to study the biology of the BSE agent, the Italian BSE Reference Laboratory to evaluate present diagnostic tools for detecting atypical BSE cases and the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain to compare North American and European BSE strains.
About $750,000 will go toward a biocontainment facility now under construction at the ARS National Animal Disease Centre in Ames, Iowa. These facilities will eventually allow the long-term study of BSE infection in cattle and other large animals, which can take a decade or more.