Farmers' anger over FMD

The chief livestock adviser for the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has said the organisation is deeply concerned that Pirbright, the laboratory site shared by the Institute of Animal Health and Merial Animal Health Ltd, is a suspected source of the fo

ot and mouth (FMD) outbreak.

Peter King told MTJ farmers are "extremely upset because there are still the memories of the previous outbreak of FMD" in 2001. "They fully understand the complications and hardships associated with FMD," he said.

"Livestock farmers throughout the country will be in a state of anger and amazement to think that a site concerned with animal health may have allowed this terrible virus to get into our farming stock," said King.

Conservative leader David Cameron echoed King's sentiment. Speaking at the Cranleigh Agricultural Show on 5 August, he said: "If it turns out that the virus was released either from the Institute for Animal Health in Pirbright or from the next-door lab at Merial - which, by the way, is inspected and licensed by the government - it will be astonishing news, because the organisations responsible for stopping things like FMD will effectively be responsible for starting it.

"Farmers up and down the country are going to be quite angry because they have done masses to improve their own biosecurity and they are all suffering at the moment, apparently because of mistakes made at a laboratory which is meant to stop FMD."

Health and safety inspectors are on the Pirbright site to try and determine whether it is the source of the outbreak. Merial's managing director David Biland said, "our initial investigation shows no breach of our procedures".

Biland stressed that the company's Pirbright centre had produced millions of vaccine doses in the past 15 years without any problems.

"It is too early in the investigation for anyone to determine the source of the outbreak," he said.

The director of the government's IAH, Professor Martin Shirley, said there had been limited use of the strain at the institute within the past four weeks, but insisted there had been "no breaches of our procedures".

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