Farmer to argue claims on BSE


BSE could be caused by a chemical used in pesticides, sheep dip and warble treatment for cattle, according to an English farmer who was first considered a crank but is now being called to explain his research to senior British scientists.

Mr Mark Purdey, of Somerset, has been studying the cause of BSE for 10 years. He says the rise in bovine spongiform eacephalopathy in the UK coincided with an increased use of chemical treatments for warble in cattle.

Mr Purdey said the dosage of chemical used on cattle in Britain and Northern Ireland was far higher than that used by Irish farmers, explaining the far higher incidence of BSE in the UK than in Ireland or any other European country.

The chemical used to treat cattle warble, Phosmet, contains high doses of organophosphates, a nerve gas used by the Nazis. Mr Purdey said that 20 mg of the chemical were used in the UK per animal kilogramme, compared with 6 mg per animal kilogramme in the Republic.

"You have got rid of warble fly in Ireland at far lower doses and that is what makes a mockery of the our government, because we still have warble. In this country, they looked after the chemical industries better than they looked after the farmers," he said.

In 1985, Mr Purdey won a Court case against the government when he refused to treat his cattle with Phosmet. He believes the treatment affects the central nervous systems of cows and causes mutations in the process which manufactures cows' brain protein. He said the aberrant "prion" protein was now being cited as the cause of BSE.

According to Mr Purdey symptoms of BSE are similar to those suffered by humans or animals suffering from organophosphate (OP) poisoning, including muscle spasm and a ballooning of the brain's nerve cells. Both BSE and OP poisoning have long gestation periods.

In 1990, Mr Purdey brought eight cows on to his organic farm for pedigree reasons. Four of them developed BSF. He claims to have treated two of them with antidotes for organophosphates and says they recovered. The other two were taken away and destroyed.

He dismissed as "a nonsense" the British government's contention that BSE was caused by infected food offal fed to cows. Food offal manufactured in similar conditions was used in other, countries without an outbreak of BSE, he pointed out.

Mr Purdey has now been to submit his once derided claim to the National CJD Unit in Edinburgh, whose discovery of an apparently new strain of CJD (Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease) led to the current beef crisis.

"If I am right and organophosphates are responsible, then our government is responsible for BSE, because they made warble treatment compulsory. That is why they have made a convenient scapegoat of the scrapie virus, because nobody can blame a virus," he said.

A scientist at the Teagasc Grange Beef Centre said that Mr Purdey was "clutching at straws".

"Until such a time as somebody gets a hold on it, it will be like the AIDS virus. When it is not understood, it creates a fear that will not end until a reason is found," said Mr Gerry Keane.