27 April 2000
French BSE rises faster than expected
By Philip Clarke
TWO more outbreaks of BSE have been reported in northern France, bringing the number of cases this year to 16.
There were five incidences in the same period last year.
The BSE outbreaks were confirmed as French farmers reacted angrily to claims that there may be a “third way” in which BSE is spreading in France.
Conventional wisdom is that BSE is caused by cattle eating feed infected with the BSE agent, coupled with a degree of maternal transmission.
But French agriculture minister Jean Glavany believes something else may be causing BSE in France to be increasing faster than expected.
The main French farm union, FNSEA, said in a statement: “Either the minister is saying too much or not enough.”
If the minister did have some new scientific information, then he should publish it as a matter of urgency, it added.
The unions strong suspicion is that Mr Glavany has simply been floating his ideas to cover himself in the event of some future revelation about BSE.
“If this is the case, then the method is contemptible. No one with responsibilities has the right to play with public worries and fears in this way.”
Mr Glavany later confirmed he had no new information, but was simply restating what French scientists have been saying for a while.
If BSE does not decrease towards the end of 2001, then there may be a third way of transmission, proof of which has yet to emerge, he added.