http://www.theecologist.org/article.html?article=344

BSE - Dying to know the truth

What if BSE didn't cause CJd? Have millions of animals been needlesly killed across the world, while the real cause is ignored? Is there a link to a strange disease affecting Australian Aborigines? 18 years of research has convinced MARK PURDEY there's a case to answer. His conclusions are controversial, fascinating, and if proved right, will cost the government millions in compensation.

As part of my quest to identify the real causes of BSE I recently travelled to Groote Eylandt, a remote island located off the north-east Australian coast, to study a cluster of mysterious and fatal neuro-degenerative diseases - collectively known as Groote Syndrome - that had erupted among the Aboriginal people of the village of Angurugu.

Unmotivated murders occur on a near weekly basis in the village. Despite being officially blamed on the supposedly aggressive tendencies of Aboriginal people when drunk, such extreme ‘psychotic' behaviour is unprecedented anywhere else in the Australian Aboriginal community. According to the Aboriginal elders of Angurugu, the problem developed in the late 1960s when a mining corporation started open-cast extraction of manganese nearby - causing a fine black dust of manganese dioxide to cloak the village.

As many as one in 30 people now living in Angurugu suffer from the neurological stages of Groote Syndrome. The symptoms are a grotesque mix of motor neurone failure, wasting and dementia, which reduce its victims to a state akin to ‘a stick insect trying to cross ice'.

A fierce controversy rages over the origins of Groote Syndrome. The prevailing theory blames the emergence on an inherited mutation introduced into the Aboriginal community 300 years ago. It claims that Portuguese-Macassan sailors had interbred with Aboriginal women while visiting the island for the trepang harvest. But when I spoke to the Aboriginal elders, they adamantly denied any such inter-relationships. Furthermore, if true, why has this inherited mutation taken so many years to appear? And how, if the syndrome is an Aboriginal mutation, have white mine workers started to develop the condition as well?
Given the major holes in this theory, I wasn't surprised to discover that all the research into the disease so far has been performed by a team of academics whose work has been funded exclusively by the mining corporation.

For my part, I think that the well-recognised mutagenic and neurotoxic effects of high manganese exposure could be the cause of these diseases. If this is the case, it would be possible to treat some of the early-stage victims of Groote Syndrome with a manganese-chelating compound in the hope that the disease's symptoms may be reversed. But until now, victims have not even been told of the existence of a possible cure. This is hardly surprising, since clinical success with such chelating treatment would betray the disease's true cause, and thus bankrupt the mining company. Instead current health policy is to send the victims home to die a slow, inevitable death.

The BSE connection
A terrible story, but what has it got to do with BSE in cattle herds thousands of miles away in the UK, or - for that matter - me? I am a working dairy farmer with first-hand experience of BSE erupting in cattle that had been purchased into my organic farm. I was struck by the fact that no cases of BSE had ever emerged in cows that had been home-reared on fully converted organic farms - despite those cattle having been permitted access to feed containing the meat and bone meal (MBM) ingredient as part of their 20 per cent conventional feed allowance decreed in the organic standards.

So I embarked upon a global trek to analyse the unique environments where traditional Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) had erupted in high-incidence clusters for many years. After tramping known cluster zones in Colorado, Iceland, Slovakia, Calabria, Sardinia, Japan, et al, the results of my analysis displayed abnormally high levels of manganese and rock-bottom levels of copper, selenium and zinc in all of the food chains concerned. In adjoining disease-free areas, levels of manganese were normal.

In each cluster zone tested a specific environmental source of manganese could be pinpointed. The sources could be volcanic, acid rain, steel, glass, ceramic, dye, munitions factories, lead-free petrol refineries, the take-off airspace beyond airports, fungicide and fertiliser sprays, and so forth. In addition, the customary feeding of manganese supplements (to encourage bone and antler growth, for example) could further explain the outbreaks of TSE in cattle, humans, zoo animals, deer, mink and cats.

Scientific literature also indicates a raft of neuro-degenerative disorders associated with manganese exposure over the years. The famous South Pacific clusters of Alzheimer's, motor neurone disease and Parkinson's - the Guam Syndrome - have all erupted in areas where manganese is at excessive levels in the local environment.

From then on I became deeply sceptical of the conventional consensus on the origins of BSE and its human equivalent - variant CJD. There were just too many radical flaws blighting the hypothesis that bovine ingestion of micro doses of scrapie-contaminated MBM lead to BSE. Equally flawed was the follow-up theory that human ingestion of BSE-contaminated beef causes vCJD.

Fighting the government
For 18 years now, I have found my work and personal integrity subjected to a steady flow of ridicule and dirty tricks. During the 1980s my farm and family became the victims of a raft of once-in-a-lifetime-type physical disasters: arson, firearms intimidation, vandalisation of my research library and communications, and infiltration by a bizarre array of bogus greens, pseudo-journalists and plain weirdos who subtly set about discrediting my social and scientific esteem. It was only when my work gained support from the likes of former minister of defence Tom King and the Prince of Wales that the physical aspects of this harassment abruptly ceased.

A recent demand from the UK government departments for my personal data revealed much of what had been going on behind the scenes. Requests by environment minister Michael Meacher to personally meet with me had been deliberately stymied by his own officials. Other documents revealed how the British Agrochemical Association had been organising a ‘joint initiative' with the Ministry of Agriculture's own grant-funding department to channel public funds into a live animal trial that had been deliberately designed to refute my theory.

Since the BSE inquiry had rejected the official scrapie-BSE hypothesis and found in favour of some aspects of my own theory, the UK government responded by setting up a further mini-inquiry to re-examine the origins of BSE. The resulting publication, known as the ‘Gabriel Horn Report', employed a mix of misrepresentation and outright bogus disinformation in order to discredit the validity of my theory. When I attempted to sue the government for libel, it pleaded ‘qualified privilege' of the expert committee and then spun out the legal communications beyond the one-year post-publication mark - thereby exempting itself from my claim.

So why won't the government listen?
Regardless of the scaremongering, a basic study of the history of TSE clearly demonstrates that the disease does NOT originate from animal-to-animal contact or through ingestion of feeds contaminated with TSE brain material. Why don't the experts consult the wisdom of the Icelandic farmers and vets who have been living and breathing with scrapie for light years. When the first symptoms of scrapie emerge in their sheep, it is customary to slaughter the animal instantly - eating the flesh (brains and all) - before the poor animal has time to waste away.

If scrapie or chronic wasting disease (CWD) can be passed on to humans via consumption - as the scientific authorities would have us believe - why have no cases of vCJD erupted in these Icelandic sheep farmers? In fact, Iceland has only ever witnessed two cases of vCJD in its entire medical history, and these victims had both hailed from the scrapie-free district in the far south of the country.

Despite the failure of repeated attempts to eradicate long-term TSE hot spot regions in Colorado and Iceland by wholesale livestock slaughter and fallowing regimes, governments are still adopting the slaughter strategy as a first-choice means of control. But history has shown that TSE will invariably re-erupt as soon as fresh livestock are introduced back into slaughter areas. Such extreme measures do little more than remove the superficial evidence of the disease. They merely mislead the public with the illusion that TSE has been controlled - a good vote-catching policy for any government. For instance, the recent discovery of new clusters of TSE in US deer has led to an official over-reaction of unprecedented proportion. A wholesale slaughter policy of the deer has been enacted throughout all CWD-endemic regions across the US. While studying in Wisconsin recently, I heard the story of a deer rancher who had retained some body tissues of his TSE-affected deer, only to find himself subjected to a gunpoint raid by wildlife officials.

But who is questioning the scientific reasoning for executing this final farcical solution on these poor creatures? The policy of slaughtering a few million healthy animals across the world has been received with almost complacent acceptance. Reports pop up with ever-increasing frequency of so-called TSE precautionary control programmes - annihilation of a herd of water buffalo in Vancouver, herds of sheep culled in Vermont, thousands of scrapie-susceptible sheep herds destroyed across Europe, 400,000 cows slaughtered in Germany - all of them healthy animals.

If we can understand the cause of TSE, then we will be able to prevent, control and maybe even cure the disease. Only last month vet Terry Spraker, who oversees TSE in deer in Colorado, told me that symptoms had been reversed after treating TSE-affected deer with copper. Unfortunately, the Establishment has no interest in the cause, prevention or cure of this grotesque disease. Its current global agenda to depopulate livestock numbers is for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with health risks to the human race, but more to do with envisioned profits from multinational GM proteins.

Corporations have invested billions of pounds in researching and developing their GM arable protein crops and the complementary package of pesticides to go with them. So why would the Establishment spend any time or money investigating my peer-reviewed work when the outcome, if it proved my theories right, would cost them millions in compensation.

Mark Purdey lives and works in Somerset, England. A passionate environmentalist, Mark has spent his life investigating disease clusters and their causes. For more on Mark's fascinating work visit his website at www.markpurdey.com