R-CALF Urges USDA to Reject Zoetis’ FMD Vaccine
Billings, Mont. – In comments filed yesterday with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), R-CALF USA asserts the agency has no authority to approve Zoetis, Inc.’s (Zoetis’) request to manufacture a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine on the mainland using a modified live FMD virus unless Congress first changes the law prohibiting the introduction of the live FMD virus into the mainland.
According to Zoetis’s petition, the pharmaceutical company obtained a permit from APHIS to introduce the live FMD virus into the mainland. R-CALF USA construes current law as strictly prohibiting the introduction of a live FMD virus into the mainland for any purpose other than for research, study, and for transport across the continental United States.
The Zoetis petition argues that the live FMD virus it introduced has been genetically modified to render it incapable of causing FMD infection in livestock. But R-CALF USA insists that does not matter. It states that Congress was clear that the live FMD virus can only be introduced for three specific purposes and manufacturing of a vaccine is not among them. Therefore, the group argues that APHIS’ and Zoetis’ only recourse is to seek new legislation from Congress.
The group also points out that the petition itself lacks any citation or reference to any scientific study that substantiates Zoetis’ and APHIS’ claim that the modified live FMD virus is incapable of causing infection in U.S. livestock or wildlife.
Thus, the group argues that APHIS “should voluntarily withdraw its Petition both because it seeks comments regarding an unlawful act and because it is fundamentally insufficient for purposes of analyzing the potential risk the Petition potentially harbors for the U.S. live cattle industry.”
In expressing its concern for a likelihood of an inadvertent release of FMD on the mainland, the group cited the inadvertent release of FMD that occurred in August 2007 from the Pirbright site in Surrey, England, where a commercial vaccine production plant and a research and diagnostic laboratory are co-located. R-CALF USA states this “is testament to the foolishness of carrying out such activities in close proximity to wildlife and livestock populations.”
Nearing its conclusion, R-CALF USA states its position is that the APHIS should cease its high-risk practice of allowing imports of raw beef from countries where FMD is known to exist, such as Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Namibia.
“More than anything else, this will protect the U.S. from the introduction of this dangerous disease, thus eliminating the perceived need for introducing live FMD into the mainland,” the group wrote.
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