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BSE Scientist Prusiner Awarded Medal of Science

02 December 2010

US - Dr Stanley B. Prusiner has been selected by the President, as a recipient of the government’s highest honour for scientists – the National Medal of Science.

The honoring of Dr Prusiner for his discovery of prions, the causative agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and other related neurodegenerative diseases, and his continuing efforts to develop effective methods for detecting and treating prion diseases’ is a profound recognition of the seriousness of BSE to both animals and humans. Because cattle are hosts to BSE, developing methods for detecting, treating, and preventing BSE is a vital concern to all US cattle farmers and ranchers and all citizens who consume beef.

Currently, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has an open rulemaking concerning US import policies related to BSE-affected countries, known as 2007’s over-30-month rule (OTM rule), which allows exports to the US from Canada of cattle born after March 1, 1999, and beef from Canadian cattle of all ages. The precursor to the OTM rule is USDA’s January 2005 Final Rule on BSE that relaxed longstanding restrictions on the importation of cattle and beef from countries where BSE is known to exist.

“At that time, Dr Prusiner formally opposed USDA’s efforts to unnecessarily expose cattle and humans to BSE and offered his scientific advice regarding several important BSE mitigation measures he viewed as essential for ensuring the safety of our food supply, but USDA officials not only ignored completely Dr Prusiner’s advice regarding necessary BSE mitigations, but also, they viciously attacked his credibility and integrity,” said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian who also chairs the group’s animal health committee.

For example, in public court documents USDA called Dr Prusiner’s advice “conjecture,” his conclusions “scientifically unsound,” his recommendations “abstract assertions,” and stated his opinions had “no relevance.” To add insult to injury, these USDA officials maliciously attempted to publicly impeach Dr Prusiner by stating his opposition “serves primarily as a thinly veiled sales pitch for his own company, which manufactures a commercial test that could profitably be used for the blanket testing of millions of cattle he so strongly endorses.”

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