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Bovine TB research is 'flawed' Feb 3 2004

Steve Dube, The Western Mail

A FORMER farmer and army colonel suspects that vested interests are blocking an answer to the devastation being caused by bovine tuberculosis.

Col Danny Goodwin-Jones has alerted leading politicians and civil servants that he believes current research into the alarming spread of bovine TB is deeply flawed and that he has a possible solution.

He submitted his memorandum, the latest in a series of correspondence, last September. The response from Defra and London has been silence, although Wales Countryside Minister Carwyn Jones has replied with a series of questions.

Col Goodwin-Jones is convinced that Defra is making a huge mistake in concentrating its efforts to meet the TB crisis by blaming the badger, and pouring money into the search for an effective vaccine.

He thinks the answer lies in the soil, and says his theory is borne out by experience and practice.

The vested interests that he believes are blinding politicians and civil servants are academics and the pharmaceutical companies - the one safeguarding their research budgets and the other transfixed by marketplace profits.

"They just don't consider where the hotspots are and why they are there," said Col Goodwin-Jones.

"There's no TB in the North of England and none in the East or South-East apart from one spot in Sussex.

"But it's rampant in South- West Wales, parts of Derbyshire and the southern Midlands and it's now surfaced in Monmouthshire and Powys.

"There's been 15 years of research into producing a vaccine and loads of money being spread around academia.

"They don't want a solution they can't patent."

He said the results from farms that have undergone soil analysis showed that treatment with trace elements, particularly with selenium, produced outstanding results.

"One of our customers is a small tenant farmer in Gloucestershire where the disease is rampant.

"There's a disused railway line full of badger setts that runs through his land and the three large farms on his boundaries all have TB.

"His animals are tested every 60 days and he has never showed a reactor."

Col Goodwin-Jones said the only difference was that the farmer puts selenium and iodine drops into the cows' water supply. And the trace elements protect against other diseases and conditions as well. He cites farmers who are saving 14,000 on vet bills, others whose sheep no longer suffer birth problems and whose lambs are all healthy.

He even maintains that restoring trace elements to an impoverished pasture cuts fertiliser bills and produces more dairy heifer calves than bulls.

"But no-one wants to know because it would knock on the head lots of jobs in the pharmaceutical industry," he said.

Col Goodwin-Jones's company already has contracts for 200 farms across Britain and abroad this year.

"We treat the land for five or six years, restoring the balance, and some farmers come back for additional treatment after about ten years.

"If you get the selenium levels right, all the lambs are born on the 149th day and they are virtually running on the spot as soon as they are born.

His company even treats 15 racecourses in Britain.

"The going improves because once you put back the trace elements all the creatures that live in the soil recover and they keep it healthy."

Questioned by MPs on the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee last June, Defra scientists said they were aware of the effect of trace elements such as selenium on the status of cattle and badgers, but had not been asked to consider any research proposals.

"It has been suggested by some that animals with mineral deficient diets might have increased susceptibility to TB, particularly in areas where soils are deficient in trace elements such as copper or selenium," said Defra's Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB.