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Volume 456: debated on Wednesday 31 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make a statement on progress in the National Scrapie Plan. (111053)

The National Scrapie Plan Ram Genotyping Scheme has been under review during the second half of 2006, following a decision by the EU Council and Parliament to reject proposals for compulsory scrapie resistance testing in pure bred and pedigree flocks.

The review included an examination by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee of the science underpinning the NSP, and an assessment of the benefits gained from the RGS over the last five years. SEAC concluded that the RGS approach of selective breeding for scrapie resistance remained a scientifically valid approach for eradicating classical scrapie. They concluded however that the prevalence of BSE in the UK sheep population is most likely zero, or very low if present at all, and consequently the current RGS would have little impact on public health.

Ministers have accepted the review’s key recommendation that a fully-funded RGS is therefore no longer appropriate. Instead, Departments should consult on options for the future of the RGS—either a cost-shared genotyping scheme, or closure of the scheme.

Ministers have also agreed that the consultation should take place in the summer in the light of progress on wider work on responsibility and cost sharing which is already under way. It will also cover the NSP flock register. Officials will continue informal discussions with sheep industry stakeholders and RGS members.