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USFoot-and-Mouth Plan Used Flawed Study

23 May 2008

WASHINGTON — Congressional investigators were cited as concluding in findings obtained by The Associated Press that the Bush administration relied on a flawed study to conclude that research on a highly infectious animal disease could safely be moved from an isolated island laboratory to sites on the mainland near livestock.

Congress' Government Accountability Office was cited as saying the Homeland Security Department "does not have evidence" that foot-and-mouth disease research can be conducted on the U.S. mainland without significant risk of an animal epidemic, said.

Officials from the GAO and the Homeland Security Department were expected to square off Thursday at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. The administration isn't backing down on its view that modern laboratories have the highest security to prevent an escape of the virus.

The one certainty in the debate that has divided the commercial livestock industry: making the wrong choice could bring on an economic catastrophe.

While the disease does not sicken humans, an outbreak on the U.S. mainland — avoided since 1929 — could lead to slaughter of millions of animals, a halt in U.S. livestock movements, a ban on exports and severe losses in the production of meat and milk.

To avoid an epidemic, foot-and-mouth research has been confined since 1955 to the 840-acre Plum Island, N.Y., off the northeastern tip of Long Island. The facility there is outmoded and will be replaced by a National Bio-and-Agro-Defense Facility that also will study diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans.

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Source: Associated Press


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