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Glasgow 2001 Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
BSE mistakes 'being repeated'
By BBC science correspondent Pallab Ghosh

The decision to have closed inquiries into the foot-and-mouth outbreak showed that the UK Government has not learnt the lessons from mad cow disease, a leading BSE inquiry scientist said on Tuesday.

Professor Malcolm Ferguson-Smith said the ministers had failed their first big test to demonstrate a more open approach to scientific crises.

He said the 16-volume Phillips report into BSE, released last year, was in danger of becoming a "26m doorstop".

Despite the two-year, 26m ($38m) inquiry into mad cow disease, important findings were not being followed, he told the British Association's Festival of Science in Glasgow.

'Public mistrust'

Professor Ferguson-Smith of Cambridge University was one of the three members of the BSE inquiry committee.

Report PA
The Phillips report into BSE is turning into an expensive "doorstep"
"There is some evidence that one or two of the lessons have certainly not been learned," he told the Glasgow meeting.

He said: "I was rather devastated when I heard that the inquiries into foot-and-mouth disease were going to be held in private. I think that is a mistake."

There was a need for greater openness and discussions with independent scientists, he said.

"Lack of openness leads to public mistrust of government," he told journalists.

'Same gang'

The Phillips report concluded that no institution or individual was to blame for the BSE crisis. But it criticised poor co-ordination between government departments and secrecy based on a fear of causing public alarm.

Professor Ferguson-Smith said that the decision to hold three inquiries in private into foot-and-mouth suggested that ministers were still more concerned with avoiding criticism than promoting openness.

He said the new Department of Rural Affairs (Defra) was "the same gang under a different name" and it should ask independent scientists to do more of its research.

However, the professor did congratulate the government on setting up the Food Standards Agency, which he said was a positive move towards more transparency. He also welcomed the decision to let the Royal Society set up the scientific inquiry into foot-and-mouth.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Matt McGrath
He feels the BSE report hasn't been read by enough senior people
See also:

09 Feb 01 | UK
26 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Links to more Glasgow 2001 stories are at the foot of the page.


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