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Thursday, April 2, 1998 Published at 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK


Farmer says chemicals cause BSE
image: [ Mark Purdey has little support amongst the scientific community ]
Mark Purdey has little support amongst the scientific community

A Somerset farmer has told the BSE inquiry that he believes the epidemic may have been triggered by the use of organo-phosphate (OP) chemicals to treat cattle.

Correspondent Richard Wilson reports and talks to Mark Purdey for BBC News 24 (1'17")
Mark Purdey, 44, believes a link with the chemicals used to treat parasitic infestation like warble fly could have caused the problem and that of new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in humans.

The dairy farmer from Taunton told the inquiry that he tried to warn the government that the chemicals could cause brain damage in cows and humans exposed to them but he felt that he was ignored.

He said he had been particularly worried about the OPs used to treat warble fly, a cattle parasite.

'Sceptical' about causes

In 1985 Mr Purdey won a legal battle when the Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries granted him the right to refuse to use OPs.

He told the inquiry: "When BSE first came on the scene I was very sceptical about the various theories put forward for it, such as scrapie-infected meat and bone meal fed to cattle.

"British meat and bone meal were sold all over the world, including the Middle East, where there has not been a single case of BSE.

"I started looking at chemicals as the cause for the disease, because I had a hunch, I suppose. I then heard that people who work with pets or farm animals were most susceptible to new-variant CJD and they are also most exposed to OPs, as it is used on cats and farm animals."

Mr Purdey also said he believed that there had been a cluster of cases of new-variant CJD in Kent because of the high levels of OPs used on crops grown in that area.

"I felt there was a kind of alliance between the government and the chemical companies which produced OP pesticides," said Mr Purdey.

Teresa Gorman, Conservative MP for Billericay who came to listen to Mr Purdey's evidence, said she hoped his theories would be listened to and investigated.

She said: "It is not just Mark Purdey that believes there is a link between OPs and BSE, there are also scientists who believe there is a link."

The BSE inquiry, headed by Appeal Court judge, Sir Nicholas Phillips, is now in its fourth week, and is expected to last more than a year.

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