May 01, 2005


 Funding redirected to enhance BSE research program

Posted April 15, 2005

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced March 18 that almost $2 million in funding has been redirected to enhance research on bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Johanns made the announcement during the National Restaurant Association's Food Safety Summit.

The BSE research funds, redirected by the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, will be used for new BSE projects and facilities. They will also build on President Bush's fiscal year 2006 budget proposal, which would increase BSE research by $7.3 million or 155 percent over 2005 funding levels.

Secretary Johanns also announced that $5 million has been awarded to 18 colleges and universities to establish a Food Safety Research and Response Network (see story above).

"In a rapidly changing world marketplace, science is the universal language that must guide our rules and policies, rather than subjectivity or politics," Johanns 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 newly funded BSE projects include international collaborations with the Veterinary Laboratory Agency in Great Britain 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 biocontainment facilities now under construction at the ARS National Animal Disease Center 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.

The ARS has been a leader in research on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies such as scrapie and chronic wasting disease in deer. The agency developed the immunohistochemistry test that is currently used as the gold standard in the United States to confirm a diagnosis of BSE. With an annual budget of nearly $10 million for TSE research, the ARS has 15 scientists involved in the research, primarily in Ames, Iowa; Pullman, Wash.; and Albany, Calif.