NORTH SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – A new, five-year, $5 million (US$4.5 million) research program is being developed on behalf of Australia’s livestock industries and the Australian government to address vulnerabilities in Australia’s readiness to control foot-and-mouth disease (F.M.D.), according to Meat & Livestock Australia (M.L.A.)

Over the first two years of the program, the beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goat and pig industries and M.L.A.’s donor company are investing $2 million (US$1.6 million) in funding. The program will be managed by Animal Health Australia and the research will be conducted out by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (C.S.I.R.O). scientists from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (A.A.H.L.).

“Markets around the world have stringent and unwavering laws on their food imports and in the event of Australia contracting F.M.D., we would be locked out of all trade with our customers,” said David Palmer, M.L.A.’s managing director. “Economic losses would be devastating – in the order of $4 million (US$3.6 million) a day according to estimates by the Australian Productivity Commission.”

Community concerns will demand better use of technology to minimize any livestock destruction as the main source of control in such an event, he added. “Vaccines, animal traceability, improved modeling and the use of sophisticated diagnostics underpin an effective and efficient response to F.M.D.,” Mr. Palmer said. “This project will deliver the necessary science on vaccination as a preferable F.M.D. control strategy, and develop the necessary protocols.”

Five years ago, Australia’s governments and livestock industries made a significant investment in an F.M.D. vaccine bank, which provides Australia with guaranteed access to vaccine. This has been recently renewed for another five years. Although this provides Australia with assurance of accessibility, there are many unknowns in the application of vaccine to Australian livestock in Australian conditions.

During the five-year program A.A.H.L. will conduct research into the application of F.M.D. vaccines in Australian livestock. Much of the work will be carried out collaboratively with overseas countries including South Africa, Argentina, Vietnam and South East Asia as the live F.M.D. virus that is required for this work will not be imported into Australia.

“The completion of the projects in this program will significantly enhance the benefits of investments already made and reinforce the vigilance of the Australian livestock industry to maintain its reputation as a supplier of clean, safe products,” Mr. Palmer concluded.