MAF Wants Full Scientific Input on RCD Decision

24 February 1997

The process for considering the application to import rabbit calicivirus disease RCD as a rabbit control tool is designed to ensure full scientific input into the decision, the Ministry of Agriculture said today.

MAF's Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), Dr Barry O'Neil, said it was timely to remind the public, particularly those who made submissions, of the process which will be followed, and to assure them that their submissions are being thoroughly considered. Nearly 800 submissions were received during the two month public submission phase.

Dr O'Neil said that in light of recent comments in the media from Drs Alvin Smith and Neil Cherry, it is important that the public are fully aware of the process so they can have full confidence that all the concerns that have been raised are being addressed, not only by MAF, but also by independent experts. All those who made submissions had received letters and charts outlining this process.

In addition to this, when claims are made, such as Dr Cherry's, which are not the opinionof mainstream scientist or experts in the area, MAF will approach relevant people and organisations for clarification. In the case of Dr Cherry's claims, MAF is approaching the Australian Ministry of health and Quarantine Inspection Service to ascertain if there is any truth to the statements that he makes

Twelve independent expert reviewers, who are working independently of each other in their respective areas of expertise, have been asked to provide their full reports to the CVO by Friday 28 February. The reviewers are:

Dr Brian Boag, the Scottish Crop Research Institute, UK (ecologist)
Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, UK, (Dr Glenn Iason) (ecologist)

Prof. Robert E Shope, at the University of Texas Medical Branch, USA (virologist) Prof. M
D (Mo) Salman, at the Colorado State University, USA (veterinary epidemiologist)
Lektos Consulting Limited, Palmerston North, (retaining Emeritus Professor B W (Bill)
Manktelow), (veterinary pathologist)
Massey University, Palmerston North, (Assoc. Prof. Robin Fordham) (ecologist)
Ecosystems Consultants, Dunedin, (Dr Henrik Moller) (ecologist)
Col. Donald Burke, Walter Reid Institute of Army Research, Maryland, USA (human health virologist)
Ministry of Health, NZ

Department of Conservation
Te Puni Kokiri
Ministry for the Environment.

These reports will be sent to all those who made submissions, who will have one calendar month to advise MAF whether they consider that the technical issues raised in their submissions have been adequately understood and considered. The reports will also be made available to the RCD Applicant Group, who may wish to respond.

The CVO will then prepare a recommendation to the decision-maker, Dr Peter O'Hara. To assist him in preparing his recommendation to the Deputy Director-General, where the CVO is satisfied that reviewers' reports have not adequately addressed issues raised either by the applicant group or submitters, he may contact submitters for further clarification. If necessary, a meeting will be arranged to assist in such clarification.

Media inquiries to:
Dr Barry O'Neil, Chief Veterinary Officer, (04) 474 4128
Debbie Gee, Communications Manager, (04) 474 4258



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