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From the Letters page of the Farmers Guardian January 26th 2002


On 21st December Dr Peter Nettleton of the Moredun Institute misquoted the cost of the Cepheid SmartCycler apparatus for the swift diagnosis of virus.

The true cost is £20,000 - ten times less than the price he is quoted as saying each costs.

Frankly, Dr Nettleton has made some astonishingly misleading statements about vaccination in several newspapers recently which have done a great deal of damage. Reported comments regarding the availability of vaccines for example were just absurd. The article of Dec 21 states that Dr Nettleton was giving a press briefing. In that case surely he should have distributed a press release to ensure that technical and other details were reported accurately. Is this not normal practice?

The government funded Moredun Institute's published abstract (ECRR conference Edinburgh) indicates how completely unprepared they were in their thinking with regard to the possibility of an epidemic of FMD striking the UK - in spite of all the warnings from the EU. Dr Nettleton seems seriously out of touch with FMD science yet he has been - and perhaps still is - an adviser to the Scottish Executive as well as serving on the Royal Society of Edinburgh FMD Inquiry.

The slogan on the front cover of the Moredun Institute is: "ensuring animal health and welfare" Printed on the frontispiece is: "to conduct distinguished scientific research on infectious diseases of livestock..." With regard to the most important viral disease of livestock this country has seen for decades Moredun has been seriously lacking in both these aspects - yet his did not stop them from making outlandish public statements in print.

Dr Nettleton has, I know, received messages of alarm asking him to correct any misrepresentation, but he has not yet done so. It is very important at a time when decisions are being taken that will affect future policy that errors of fact are corrected and I would urge Dr Nettleton to correct the statements in the Dec 21 article without delay.

Yours faithfully

Mary Critchley