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Farming: Pigs

Volume 493: debated on Wednesday 3 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether his Department has (a) undertaken and (b) commissioned research on the effect in (i) England and (ii) elsewhere of intensive pig farming on developments in swine influenza. (276852)

DEFRA is currently funding research at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency looking at cross- species transmission of influenza viruses. This work has been ongoing for a number of years. While this research is not specifically focused on the effects of intensive farming, it seeks to give us a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in cross-species transmission and hence to better understand the risks.

DEFRA funds a surveillance programme for swine influenza in England and Wales. This is delivered by Veterinary Laboratories Agency and has been in operation since 1991. Private veterinary practitioners can submit samples for swine influenza testing in cases where this disease is suspected. This testing is performed free of charge. Under this programme, samples are tested from pig herds from various types of production system. If virus is isolated from a sample, further genetic analysis is performed to determine if there is any evidence that the virus may be genetically different from commonly seen swine influenza viruses in the UK. In addition, a random subset of influenza viruses is subjected to further genetic analysis. The aim of the programme is to identify any unusual changes in swine influenza viruses and to monitor the natural evolution of the virus over time.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many pig farms he has visited in his official capacity in the last 12 months. (277334)

[holding answer 1 June 2009]: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has visited two pig farms in the last 12 months.