Top scientist fought for BSE cash

24 October 2000

Top scientist ‘fought for BSE cash’

By FWi staff

A LEADING scientist who was effectively head of the government laboratory investigating BSE has defended his role in the crisis.

Professor John Bourne, director of the Institute of Animal Health in 1988, told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today he risked his job to secure research funding.

This followed remarks made by dairy farmer Maitland Mackie, former chairman of the animal research committee of the Agricultural and Food Research Council.

Mr Mackie said inadequate information he received from civil servants resulted in funding going to “novices” in BSE-type diseases, rather than world experts.

Cash went to the Institute of Animal Health and Central Veterinary Laboratory, which had to start from scratch on the subject.

Mr Mackie says with hindsight experts on BSE-type diseases at the Neuropathogenesis Unit in Edinburgh should have benefited.

This led to two-year delay in understanding the dangers posed by BSE, claims Mr Mackie.

But Prof Bourne says he put his job on the line to keep funding for BSE-type diseases which otherwise might have been lost.

Prof Bourne added that in September 1988, Mr Mackie was “a driving force” in moves to run down the BSE programme, which Prof Bourne refused to do .

Prof Bourne said he could understand why MAFF would have wanted to develop its own in-house capability.

But he conceded that claims that leading experts on BSE-type disease were overlooked in favour of vets “may well be right”.

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