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Defra puts animal health at risk with decision to cut funding for Pirbright says Farron

February 23, 2009 5:21 PM

News that the Government plans to scrap its funding for a major redevelopment of the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) laboratory at Pirbright has been described by Shadow Secretary of State for DEFRA Tim Farron MP as a risk to animal health.

Scientists have been forced to scale back plans to replace the crumbling Surrey laboratory, which triggered the foot and mouth outbreak in 2007 following cuts to Government funding.

Disease expert Sir Iain Anderson, who this month published his findings into the 2007 foot and mouth outbreak, had stated that the Pirbright facility should be redesigned as a National Institute for Infectious Disease.

Mr Farron has expressed his concern that this type of cost cutting measure will threaten Britain's ability to deal with the rising threat of animal diseases and could also make another outbreak of foot and mouth more likely.

Tim has tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons giving his backing to the NFU's Why Science Matters in Farming campaign which aims to encourage the Government to allocate more funding for agricultural development to combat the threat of new animal diseases.

Commenting Mr Farron said:

"Just twenty days after this Government announced that that they were intent on trying to prevent a repeat of the 2007 foot and mouth fiasco, they've decided to ignore one of the Anderson inquiry's key recommendations because the cost would be too expensive.

"The Government's decision to scrap the scheduled redevelopment of Pirrbight leaves a huge question mark over their ability to react to future outbreaks. Any decision which aims to prevent the spread of animal diseases should not be taken on the cheap.

"The recent outbreak of bluetongue is a perfect example of the scientific case for a new state of the art national centre for animal health research. The early IAH predictions of when and where the bluetongue virus would strike allowed effective preparation and early vaccinations which saved the UK £485million and 10,000 jobs.

"Unfortunately this type of cost cutting measure has been typical of this Government's neglectful attitude to agricultural research and development. Unless the Government reverses this trend and begins to devote more funding to the science of farming we could face another repeat of 2007 foot and mouth fiasco in the near future."

1. EDM entitled Why Science Matters for Farming by Tim Farron MP

That this House welcomes the NFU's Why Science Matters for Farming campaign which aims to encourage students at colleges and universities to consider agricultural research as a possible career path; notes that the campaign will include a series of seminars focusing on different aspects of the scientific opportunities and challenges facing the farming industry; recognises the importance of new technologies such as anaerobic digestion for enabling farming businesses to prosper as part of a successful British economy; expresses concern about the recent trend of under-investment in agricultural research and development; urges the Government to increase its spending on agricultural development to meet the challenges of animal health, environmental responsibilities and food production facing British farming.