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Margaret Beckett [holding answer 1 July 2002]: The Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) met on 12 June in London as part of its normal schedule of meetings. The group noted progress on the Krebs field trial, including recent proactive culling operations in Cornwall and Gloucestershire, and discussed future work
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programmes. There was discussion of arrangements to increase collections in the Road Traffic Accident survey of badger carcases for TB and for clearing the backlog of epidemiological questionnaires (TB99) following delays arising from the foot and mouth disease emergency. Consideration was given to additional measures to combat the spread of bovine TB and action outside trial areas. The group reviewed its programme for analysing and interpreting data from cattle TB 'hotspots' outside trial areas, data on inconclusive reactors and data on the gamma interferon test, and confirmed its intention to finalise a report by the autumn.
Various research activities were discussed including a report on post genomic research on M.bovis at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) and recently published research by VLA on the pathology in cattle following M.bovis BCG vaccination against experimental bovine TB.
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Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) total TB tests on herds, (b) herds under movement restriction, (c) tests on unrestricted herds, (d) new herd incidents and (e) new confirmed herd incidents there were in each county between 1 January and 30 March, and what percentage of tests on unrestricted herds in each county resulted in a confirmed herd incident. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 1 July 2002]: The information is not available in the format requested. A statistical summary for Great Britain as a whole for the period 1 January to 30 March is given in table 1.
A more detailed breakdown of the information requested in sub-points (a), (b), (d) and (e) is given in table 2. This is broken down by State Veterinary Service region for the period 1 January to 31 May. Statistics for unrestricted herds (sub-point (c)) are not available in the same format.
|Date||Total TB tests on herds(3)||Herds under movement restriction(4)||Tests on unrestricted herds(5)||Of which: New herd incidents(6)||Of which: New confirmed herd incidents(7)||Tests on unrestricted herds resulting in a confirmed new herd incident(8) (percentage)|
Figures are provisional and subject to revision.
(3) Herds for which tuberculin skin testing is carried out on at least one animal during the period shown.
(4) Herds restricted at any time during the period shown due to a TB incident.
(5) Any tests carried out during the period shown on a herd which was not already under restriction due to a TB incident. Also any cases found, during the period shown, by routine inspection at the slaughterhouse of animals from a herd not already under restriction.
(6) Herds which were previously TB free but either had cattle that reacted to a tuberculin test or had a tuberculous animal disclosed by routine inspection at slaughter, during the period shown.
(7) New herd incidents (column 4) for which at least one animal was subsequently confirmed to have TB.
(8) Column 5 as a percentage of column 3.
(9) Estimates for February and March 2002 are given as a range as a number of the test results are still awaited. It is expected that the final figure, when available, will fall within this range.
DEFRA's Animal Health Database
|West||North||East||Total for England||Total for Wales||Total for Scotland||Total for GB|
|(a) Total number of herd tests||8,140||4,271||1,576||13,987||3,903||2,309||20,199|
|(b) Herds under TB2 restrictions because of a TB incident at some time during the reporting period||1,454||171||32||1,657||421||57||2,135|
|(d) Total new herd TB incidents||820||129||17||966||226||32||1,224|
|(e) of which are considered confirmed new TB incidents (i.e. CNIs)||472||69||5||546||116||9||671|
In using and interpreting table 2 the following points should be noted:
A proportion of TB incidents remain unclassified, awaiting the results of culture tests which can take several months. Therefore the number of confirmed incidents, for 2002 in particular, will currently be under-recorded. For instance, 9 per cent. of new TB incidents in January to May 2002 were unclassified when the data were extracted.
The number of TB incidents depends on the number of tests carried out and on the nature of the testing regime at the time (as well as on the underlying prevalence of the disease). In 2002, testing resources are being concentrated on herds which are overdue their tests (because of the backlog following the foot and mouth disease outbreak) and which have therefore had a longer period than usual in which to contract the disease. Those currently being tested also contain a higher than usual proportion of high risk herds. During the FMD outbreak, TB testing was significantly reduced and necessarily targeted to higher risk herds e.g. those tested following routine inspection of animals at slaughterhouses. At any time, the more herds are tested, the more likely you are to find TB.
It is therefore very difficult to assess the underlying trends at this time.
Any reactors, inconclusive reactors and direct contacts still awaiting removal and slaughter on the date of the data download were not included in the tables. These only show the number of reactors, inconclusive reactors and direct contacts that had been slaughtered as at 11 June.
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Margaret Beckett [holding answer 1 July 2002]: The planning of work in triplets I and J of the Krebs trial is proceeding in accordance with the timetable agreed with the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB. Under procedures applicable to all triplets designed to safeguard the safety of staff, details of current and future operations are not disclosed until they have been completed. A summary of the completed work for each triplet is shown on DEFRA's website at http://defraweb/animal/tb/tb/
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 1 July 2002]: The rolling nature of the backlog of herd testing for bovine TB makes it difficult for us to set a specific target for its elimination although we are working hard to address the backlog which currently stands at 20K. As overdue tests are cleared, more fall due and join the backlog. In addition as further incidents of TB are disclosed more testing is triggered.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of (a) the number of sheep and (b) the proportion of the national flock which were born before the imposition of the ban on feeding animal protein to ruminants and are still alive. 
Margaret Beckett [holding answer 1 July 2002]: BSE-related feed controls relating to ruminants date back to 1988, but the feed ban in relation to mammalian protein is considered to have been effective from 1 August 1996, when mammalian meat and bonemeal was banned from all farmed livestock feed to prevent the possibility of cross-contamination of ruminant feed. It is estimated that the number of sheep still alive which were born before 1 August 1996, is less than 500, representing approximately 3 per cent. of the UK national flock.
Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when ACRE formed its sub-group to look into the impact of releasing genetically modified organisms on soil ecology; how many times the group has met; which (a) laboratories and (b) trial sites are being used for the monitored research; and when the research findings will be available. 
Mr. Meacher: The current workplan of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) as published in their 2000 Annual Report included provision for six workgroups to be established in two phases. Three were established last year. The second phase to start this summer, will include a subgroup to review the impact of GMOs on soil ecology. The group will give consideration to potential hazards and how they might be realised, the current or future GM crops and traits that might give most concern to soil ecology and where the main gaps are in current scientific understanding. The group has not yet
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met and is not carrying out any research in laboratories or in the field. The outputs of this group including minutes of meetings will be published on the ACRE website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/gm/acre/index.htm.
Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will list the scientific assessments peer reviews that data from the GM field scale evaluations will undergo; and in what order they will take place. 
Mr. Meacher: The data from the farm-scale evaluations will be collated, analysed and presented in the form of a series of scientific papers written by the research consortium conducting the ecological studies. Their work is being overseen by the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) to ensure that it is of the highest scientific standard.
Once complete and approved by the SSC, the papers will be submitted to a reputable scientific journal for peer review and publication at the discretion of the journal. We anticipate that the report of the spring-sown crops, maize, spring oil seed rape and beet, will be published in summer 2003 and the autumn-sown oil seed rape in 2004.
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