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Monday, 23 October, 2000, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
BSE research funds 'misdirected'
mad cow
Eighty-three Britons are believed to have died from CJD
The danger posed to humans by mad cow disease was not understood for years because research funds were given to the wrong scientists, it has been claimed.

Dairy farmer Maitland Mackie, former chairman of the animal research committee of the Agricultural and Food Research Council, has complained that leading experts into BSE were ignored in favour of "novices" in the 1980s.

He claimed that civil servants at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) provided the research committee with inadequate information about BSE and its links to other diseases.

In the knowledge I have now, this was crazy stuff.

Maitland Mackie

This led to significant sums of MAFF research funding going to the Institute of Animal Health and Central Veterinary Laboratory in Berkshire, rather than a team of world experts on BSE-type diseases at the Neuro-Pathogenesis Unit in Edinburgh, he said.

Delayed decision

Mr Mackie told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme that the decision delayed understanding of BSE for more than two years.

Since 1985, 83 people in the UK are thought to have contracted CJD, the human form of BSE, by eating infected meat.

Mr Mackie said: "In the knowledge I have now, this was crazy stuff.

"It embarrasses me to this day to think about it."

An MAFF spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment ahead of the publication of Lord Phillips' report on the BSE affair on Thursday.

The report is expected to condemn the former Tory government's slow reaction to the crisis and ministers' refusal to accept that humans might be made ill by eating beef from infected cows.

Senior MAFF civil servants are unlikely to escape unscathed, with the report expected to conclude they did too little to investigate the risks posed to humans by BSE, and ignored warnings from scientists.


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22 Oct 00 | Europe
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