Doctors get funds for OP research

18 July 1997

Doctors get funds for OP research

By Tony McDougal

FARM minister Jack Cunningham has promised additional research funding for doctors investigating the effects of organophosphate chemicals on livestock farmers.

The pledge followed a 90min meeting between Dr Cunningham and junior farm minister Jeff Rooker with Elizabeth Sigmund, chairman of the OP Information Network and scientists in Whitehall on Monday.

And it came on the day when the Ministry of Defence announced an extra £2.5m for further research on Gulf War syndrome, which many claim can be partly attributed to OPs.

Although Dr Cunningham declined to say how much extra cash would be available and where it would be spent, he has asked scientists to bring forward proposals.

At present, MAFF funding is limited to a three-year £1.2m study into the effects of OPs, being co-ordinated by the Institute of Occupational Health, Edinburgh.

Prof Christine Gosden, professor of medical genetics at the University of Liverpool, said she would form a multi-faceted group of specialists looking into the different effects of OPs and submit proposals to Dr Cunningham.

Prof Gosden has been looking at links between the use of OP compounds and the higher than average number of miscarriages and stillbirths in agricultural families.

Dr Bob Davis, clinical psychiatrist, who has looked at the links between OPs and depression and suicide, welcomed MAFFs initiative. "This government does seem to be tackling the issue seriously and said it will be liaising more closely with the Department of Health."

But Mrs Sigmund attacked veterinary products committee, claiming its appraisal panel procedure, which looks into suspected adverse reactions to OP chemicals, was fundamentally flawed.

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