MPs seek progress on TB tests

MPS HAVE recommended that the government invests greater resources into developing the gamma interferon test for bovine tuberculosis.

The environment, food and rural affairs committee has also called on DEFRA to offer farmers an incentive to take part in trials of the test.

But the committee said that farmers should take note of junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw‘s advice that biosecurity measures on farms need to be improved.

In a report published on Tues (Jul 13), the cross-party group of MPs said a decision about culling badgers must await the outcome of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial.

But there were a number of promising steps forward that might be taken immediately.

In addition to making progress with the gamma interferon test, the committee said the government should move quickly to testing vaccination in badgers.

It added that research into cattle vaccines should continue, and that greater effort and resources should be devoted to such research.

Committee chairman Michael Jack said: “Many farmers argue strongly that culling badgers is the only effective way to deal with the problem of bovine TB, which has increased in recent years.

“However, the reality is that culling will not be permitted in the near future and, if it is ever allowed, it will form only part of the response to the disease.

“Therefore it is important to look at other ways of responding to the disease in order to provide a comprehensive response to the spread of bovine TB.” 

The report was welcomed by Andrew George, Liberal Democrat shadow DEFRA secretary.

“I have been pressing government to do more on the gamma interferon tests and vaccines for some months,” he said.
“It is vital that the farming community is reassured by the government speeding up the processes behind the development of vaccines and tests.”

NFU vice president, Meurig Raymond said the committee‘s recognition that TB brings suffering to animals and adversely affects farmers was an important one.
“We would urge the government to immediately implement the committee‘s recommendations,” he said.

“It would go some way to retaining the confidence of both farmers and the public.”