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New strategies proposed to combat animal diseases like ASF and AI

By Jean-Paul McDonald

In a proactive move to strengthen animal biosecurity, Canada's House of Commons agriculture committee recently released a series of important recommendations. These recommendations are aimed at bolstering Canada's defenses against significant animal health threats, such as African swine fever (ASF) and avian influenza (AI). 

The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food has identified seven key recommendations to enhance Canada's preparedness for biosecurity risks. First and foremost, the committee emphasizes the need to work closely with international partners to share best practices and coordinate efforts in enhancing biosecurity measures.  

This cooperation is crucial in a globalized world where diseases can easily cross borders. Additionally, there's a push for increased funding for the development and implementation of innovative biosecurity technologies and practices, including sensor technologies and automated disinfection systems. Regular reviews of biosecurity protocols are also encouraged to ensure their effectiveness. 

The committee suggests developing a national awareness campaign to educate both industry stakeholders and the public about the importance of biosecurity measures. This initiative aims to highlight the link between high animal welfare standards and the prevention of disease spread. 

Improving Canada’s ability to respond to animal disease outbreaks is another focus area. This includes engaging in public-private partnerships for the development of new vaccines and treatments, and the standardization of requirements for animal medications.  

The government's proposal to develop vaccine banks, as outlined in the 2023 budget for diseases like foot-and-mouth disease, is a step in this direction. 

Prioritizing protocol agreements with trading partners for diseases like ASF is critical to maintaining healthy trade relationships. Additionally, reviewing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s compensation policy to include all costs associated with the destruction of animals is suggested. 

The committee also highlights the importance of ensuring Canadian border and inspection services are well-equipped to handle biosecurity threats. This includes adequate training in agricultural matters, enforcing penalties for non-compliance with import requirements, and ensuring reciprocity of standards between countries. 

Lastly, the committee recommends a review of regulatory requirements for the disposal of specified risk material. This is to enable Canadian beef producers to compete more effectively in international markets without compromising biosecurity or Canada’s status regarding bovine spongiform encephalopathy. 

These recommendations, if implemented, should significantly strengthen Canada's biosecurity measures, safeguarding the health of the nation's livestock and supporting the agricultural industry's continued growth and sustainability. 

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