Recently the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) met with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to discuss scrapie eradication. The primary message of this meeting was that the USDA is currently on track and resourced for achieving a status of scrapie-free by the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) by the year 2017.
To accomplish scrapie eradication, the USDA has invested a significant amount of money to date. Approximately $120 million has been spent between the years 2001 and 2009. This year alone, the USDA dedicated about $17.3 million towards their scrapie programs, which includes a voluntary flock certification program, a nationwide surveillance program and an identification program for sheep and goats participating in scrapie eradication programs. Their hard work seems to be paying off. Scrapie peaked in the USA in 2005 and since this time it has been decreasing annually.
In light of all of their efforts, the USDA intends to progressively reduce their tolerance to external risk. In fact, the USDA believes that it is important at this time to start adopting a more Australia/ New Zealand like attitude toward the risk of disease introduction. This means restrictions surrounding which animals are allowed into the country will become more and more stringent.
2017 is the target date the USDA has set for detecting and eradicating the last cases of scrapie. After seven consecutive years of no scrapie cases, a country can apply for scrapie-free status from the OIE as long as the said country is following all OIE guidelines.
When a country is scrapie-free, the trade regulations associated with that country will change. Only countries that are also scrapie-free will have full access to their market. Since the USA is one of Canada’s biggest trading partners, this is something that our industry needs to keep in mind as we continue to develop and implement scrapie programs.
At the aforementioned meeting, the USDA also questioned Canada on its scrapie eradication plans. They wanted to know just how serious Canada was about eradicating the disease and what our true goal is when it comes to scrapie.
The USDA stated that they will only continue to keep the American and Canadian industries harmonized if Canada’s objective is total eradication and we fully commit to working towards this. Following on the same line, if total eradication is Canada’s goal, the USDA expects the CFIA and the Canadian industry to adopt a similar, escalating intolerance to external risks (ie: increasing restrictions on which animals are allowed into the country).
As Canada moves forward in its scrapie-eradication plans there is a lot to consider. Many decisions are going to have to be made in regards to what type of trading relationship we want to build with the States. It must be remembered that the US is a major market for Canadian producers to obtain new genetics for both the sheep and goat industries so we will want access to their market. Also, when the USA does become scrapie-free, they’ll be a stronger competitor in other markets throughout the world. This means Canada will be at a disadvantage if we do not hold the same scrapie-free status.
Another thought to bear in mind is that when it comes to disease eradication, the Canadian industry cannot afford to make decisions in isolation. The plans and programs we implement to eradicate TSEs will have an impact on all ruminant industries in Canada, not just sheep and goats.
For more information, please contact Scrapie Canada at 1-866-534-1302 or firstname.lastname@example.org