.. the situation, said Mr. Bradshaw. Our Ben, baby Ben, junior Minister of animal welfare - well some animals anyway. This in reply to a parliamentary question posed by Jim Paice, his shadow minister and referrring to rt-PCR technology and the identification of bTb in badger setts, so successfully trialled last year... but now languishing it would appear, in 'somebody's in tray..
We have mentioned PCR many times on this site, not least to remind readers that such a magic box was offered on March 12th. 2001, by the late Fred Brown who had developed the American version, to detect with certainty the presence of FMD in cattle herds. Government turned it down in favour of the infamous 'carnage by computer' with led to the deaths, quite unecessarily in our opinion, of up to 12 million animals.
But things have moved on and we now a choice of magic boxes, some British (Enigma Diagnostics is one) some still in need of laboratory diagnosis but some described as 'real time' and giving results in the field in minutes - even when used by soldiers - or vets. Commercially the technology is now widespread in hospitals across the country, and offered by animal health screeners as an option in animal disease diagnostics.
Last year, Warwick University trialled the technology in the environment and in particular screened badger setts and latrines for bTb, precisely to avoid the mass wipe out so beloved of Defra (and John Bourne) and so emotionally fuelled by their incessant use of the 'E' word .... exterminate, exterminate exterminate. Like pre programmed Daleks, it keeps coming.
And our Trevor, Mr. Lawson has repeated the mantra, speaking of 'wiping out a third of the badgers in the country' in a recent glossy publication (which we will explore later, as he is also attributed with that '14 million animal movements' - again. Sheeesh. I thought we'd squashed that one)
We are most grateful to the ever vigilant www.warmwell.com for the following posting;
"James Paice asked yesterday when DEFRA "expects to undertake research on the use of Polymerase Chain Reaction technology to detect M. bovis in badger setts"
Unfortunately, Mr Bradshaw chose not to answer the actual question asked so we do not know when - or even if - scientific evaluation will follow up the Warwick work, reported on in March 2006. Dr Orin Courtenay from the University of Warwick's department of Biological Sciences said in the university department press release that the team did not advocate culling badgers to control bovine TB, particularly in light of the scientific results emerging from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial but that if the government did continue to cull badgers, culling should at least be targeted at diseased and infectious animals. Untargeted culling kills healthy and uninfected animals.
"With some further scientific evaluation, a "sett test" based on state-of-the-art molecular technology could provide a tool towards achieving this aim," he said.
Mr Paice's question was evidently asking about progress on this further scientific evaluation. It seems evident, from Mr Bradshaw's answer, that in the past year, DEFRA has done nothing more than "consider" proposals towards bringing forward a technology that is so vitally needed in Britain.
Why are we not surprised?