Written Answers. - Animal Diseases.

John Perry

Ceist:

47 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his plans to amend the current scrapie policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18926/03]

I announced a number of changes to the existing scrapie policy on 16 April this year.

In so far as the scrapie depopulation policy is concerned, I indicated that I would, for the present, be retaining whole-flock depopulation, although depopulated flocks may be restocked with sheep after a minimum de-contamination period – usually one month – unless there is veterinary advice that the level of exposure to scrapie on the holding or other epidemiological factors indicate that a longer period is warranted. Restocking is subject to adherence to a cleansing and disinfection protocol, use of resistant rams in the new flock and record keeping requirements. Replacement female sheep which do not have specified levels of resistance will not be allowed to enter the food chain.

In relation to genotyping, my Department has almost completed a survey of rams in the various pedigree breeds, which will generate data on resistance to scrapie among the breeds in the national flock. The data gathered from this exercise will be of assistance in the development of programmes for breeding for scrapie resistance in pedigree flocks which are required to be in place by 1 January 2004. In this context, my Department is putting in place a framework whereby flockowners will be able to have their animals geno-typed and certified. As part of this initiative, the Department has invited expressions of interest from private laboratories to provide a geno-typing service to certification standards to farmers on a commercial basis. A number of expressions of interest have been received and criteria for the approval of applicant laboratories are currently being finalised.
In addition to the foregoing, scrapie will continue to be a notifiable disease and the nationwide active surveillance programme will continue. The policies in relation to scrapie will continue to be kept under review and further developments including the possibility of partial depopulation of infected flocks will be considered in the contexts of increasing genotyping capacity, the availability of a stock of scrapie resistant replacement sheep, evolving scientific knowledge of scrapie and genetic resistance, developments at EU level and other relevant factors.