For the South West and Gibraltar
200, Rue de la Loi
3 November 2008
Dear Commissioner Vassiliou,
I am writing to you concerning Bluetongue and to congratulate the Commission for the role it played in terms of leadership, guidance and financial support when large parts of Europe were hit by the Bluetongue serotype 8 in 2007/2008. I also very much support the recently announced stepping up of financial aid for the vaccination campaign 2009; hopefully the funding provided is sufficient to reach the target of eradicating the disease in the long term.
Financial support is important for livestock farmers in affected areas as in the past there has been a lack of funding for vaccine and veterinary measures. These additional costs have only added to the burden of direct and indirect losses for farmers and have threatened to compromise the safety of food production and animal welfare. In addition, with the recent detection of yet another serotype of Bluetongue in the Netherlands (BTV-6), the situation for livestock breeders has become even more serious.
But further to funding of adequate vaccination measures in affected areas, there are other issues to be addressed: Knowledge about the dynamics of the European outbreaks of various serotypes of Bluetongue is still patchy. To prevent the arrival of more serotypes, it is becoming increasingly necessary to trace possible routes of entry. May I therefore highlight the importance of tracing and investigating movements of livestock from countries in Eastern/South Eastern Europe (bordering regions with a known history of Bluetongue), where in some cases the serotypes circulating have never been determined.
I am also aware of concerns that the recent occurrence of BTV 6 may have been caused by the illegal import of a live vaccine, which if correct, would signify a breakdown in communication between farmers and authorities. While there has been some improvement on national levels, I would stress that more must be done to keep livestock farmers informed; more transparency is needed and it would be beneficial if the Commission could advise Member States accordingly.
In the light of recent developments and considering the core aim of the new Animal Health Strategy, I would urge the Commission to consider the possibility of establishing a vaccine bank, which would stock genetic material from all known serotypes of Bluetongue. This seed stock of serotypes could then be made available to contracted vaccine producers in case of any further outbreaks of Bluetongue. Vaccine production could thus be stepped up enormously and vaccine could be provided without delay, preventing the virus from spreading over vast territories and threatening many livestock holdings all over the EU.
Neil Parish MEP
Brussels Office: 14E218, European Parliament, Rue Wiertz 47-53, B-1049 Brussels