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NDP Calls for the Feds to Act on Pig Virus, Asks the Ag Committee to Study PED

By Amanda Brodhagen,

The federal New Democrats (NDP) is putting pressure on the federal government to take action to mitigate the spread of the pig-killing virus known as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea, or PED.

“We are trying to get the government to take action,” NDP Agriculture Critic Malcolm Allen said in a phone interview on Friday.

Allen said that following his Feb. 20 press release, he heard reports that cabinet plans to discuss PED when they meet on Wednesday.

“I think we are at a critical juncture…that’s why we want to push the government federally into responding in an appropriate way,” he said.

A motion was filed with the agriculture committee clerk on Thursday, and was then emailed to all ten committee members.

On Monday, at the next committee meeting, Deputy Agriculture Critic Ruth Ellen Brosseau will make a motion to request that a study on PED be conducted.

“We may have actually been successful in accomplishing our goal which is to get the government to act,” explains Allen.

The PED virus causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration in all ages of pigs, but is almost 100 per cent fatal for piglets. It cannot be spread by humans or other animals, and does not pose a risk to food safety.

Allen hopes that if a study is granted, that the agriculture committee could then make some recommendations on how to best deal with the pig virus.

He adds that he is troubled that there may be a link between PED and swine feed.

“The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is still conducting tests…but what we do know is that the virus has showed up in blood plasma that was added to feed,” he said.

The agency confirmed that the presence of PED was found in hog feed. Further testing is being conducted to determine if the feed is capable of spreading the disease in pigs. Up until now, it was understood that the virus could only be transmitted through pig manure. Test results are expected shortly.

Since the first PED case was detected on a farm in Ontario on Jan. 22, Allen has been critical of the federal government’s response.  Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has repeatedly said that PED is a “provincial issue.”  

There are now 21 confirmed cases in Ontario. The virus has also spread to two other provinces – Manitoba and Prince Edward Island – where two farms are infected.

While Allen admits that PED is not a federally reportable disease in Canada, he maintains that the issue is serious enough that the federal government should get involved. “Viruses don’t respect boarders,” he said.

“I think all of us knew that it was a serious illness when it started…we’ve seen what’s happened elsewhere around the world…we know how rapidly it has spread in the U.S.,” explained Allen. “The government simply sat on its hands while it [PED] entered the country.”

Mark Eyking, the Liberal Agriculture Critic took some time away from the Liberal Convention, (being held in Montreal this weekend), to speak with about PED. He said that while he has not yet seen the NDP’s motion, he will likely support it on Monday.

The NDP’s motion reads as follows:

That, in light of the recent and rapid spread of the PED pig virus to three provinces, the Committee immediately (a) study (i) any prompt actions which need to be taken to limit the spread of the virus, (ii) the potential impacts of the spreading virus on Canada’s  pork producers, (iii) mechanisms for the federal government to support farmers and aid in the mitigation of the outbreak, and (iv) the factors contributing to the spread of the virus; (b) make recommendations based on its findings; and (c) report these recommendations to the House of Commons.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz Responds

In an emailed statement attributed to Minister Ritz, supplied by Emily Hogevenn, (the minister’s communication assistant), he addresses the NDP’s comments about PED.

“Although PEDv does not affect food safety, it does pose a risk to industry and we are taking this very seriously,” he said. “It is unfortunate that the NDP has chosen to play politics on this issue.”

Last month, the minister announced that CFIA would allow veterinarians to import a new vaccine from the U.S. that could help combat the spread of PED. The minister said that “preliminary studies” have shown that pigs that receive the vaccine develop antibodies against the virus.

“As Minister I continue to keep an open dialogue with my provincial colleagues, and I have instructed the CFIA to continue to work with the provinces and producers to provide assistance as required. This includes leading the testing and investigation of the possible feed link, allowing emergency importation of the PED+ vaccine for Canadian hogs, as well as developing a diagnostic test to detect the PED virus, which CFIA has provided to the provinces and territories to enhance diagnostic capacity."


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