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Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what records his Department holds on the incidence of MRSA in farm animals; and if he will make a statement. 
Jonathan Shaw: MRSA has not been detected in farmed livestock in the UK and there is no current evidence that food-producing animals form a reservoir of infection in the UK. The organism has been isolated from dairy cows, pigs and chickens outside the UK and an ongoing assessment of the international picture is being maintained. The European Food Safety Authority is looking at the issue of MRSA in food-producing animals and considering what surveillance and other actions would be most appropriate for EU member states to undertake to address the issue. The UK is actively participating in the development of these proposals.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he has commissioned research into the impact of MRSA on pigs following recent cases in the Netherlands. 
Jonathan Shaw: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been isolated from dairy cows, pigs and chickens outside the UK and the international picture is being assessed on an ongoing basis. There is no current evidence that food-producing animals form a reservoir of infection in the UK and the organism has not been detected in farmed livestock in the UK. DEFRA has initiated a study undertaken by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency to test S. aureus isolates obtained from bovine clinical submissions for MRSA. This project commenced in autumn 2006 and, to date, more than 500 samples have been tested, with no MRSA identified.
The issue of MRSA in other livestock species was discussed at a meeting of the DEFRA Antimicrobial Resistance Coordination MRSA subgroup in January. The subgroup was set up to advise on how best the Department can contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the role of MRSA in animals.
Members felt that, at present, broadening the scope of work in this area should only be considered after analysis of the current findings relating to humans in the UK with MRSA infections. The particular, strain of MRSA (ST398) occurring in pigs in some other parts of Europe was not reported to have been detected so far in humans in the UK and this was a key consideration in reaching the decision taken. However, the position will be kept under active review, taking into account the latest findings in humans and animals, as well as developments in Europe and elsewhere.
The European Food Safety Authority is also looking at the issue of MRSA in food-producing animals and considering what surveillance and other actions would be most appropriate for EU member states to undertake to address the issue. The UK is actively participating in the development of these proposals.
Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with EU counterparts on using a possible alternative to Gross Domestic Product for measuring economic welfare. 
The use of pesticides is restricted in organic production both in the number of products available and the uses to which they may be put. Organic farmers are encouraged to use management techniques such as rotation, use of appropriate species and protection of natural predators of specific pests. In some exceptional cases, it is recognised that further treatment is needed. In such cases, only those products listed in Annex IIB of the Compendium of UK Organic Standards can be used, subject to the conditions set out therein. I have arranged for copies of the Annex to be placed in the Libraries of the House. Any pesticide used by organic producers in the UK must also have approval from the Pesticides Safety Directorate.
Dr. Iddon: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures are in place to monitor the contamination of organic food by pesticides and herbicides that are permitted for use on such crops. 
(i) By the DEFRA and UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) approved organic inspection body that the farmer must be registered with. The farmer must be subject to at least an annual inspection by a DEFRA approved organic inspector from that body and may also be subject to further unannounced inspection visits. These inspections can (and when appropriate do) include sampling and testing. A positive result for either a non-allowed product, or an allowed product that was either incorrectly used or had not been approved for use as required, would result in the
imposition of sanctions ranging from decertification of the product to decertification of the farm dependant on the severity and cause of the case.
(ii) DEFRA organises sample surveillance inspections based on both random and risk based selection to ensure the inspection system is operated correctly by the approved organic inspection bodies.
(iii) The Pesticides Safety Directorate undertakes a residues surveillance programme that includes organic samples, and tests all samples for a wide range of pesticides including some of those allowed in organic production. Any unusual results are passed to the Organic Team in DEFRA who ensure the information is passed to the appropriate inspection body for further investigation.
(iv) Deliberate breaches of standards by organic operators are dealt with under The Organic Products Regulations 2004 (as amended), enforcement is undertaken by Trading Standards Officers.
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the level of algal bloom is in Liverpool Bay; what the locations are of algal bloom in UK waters, broken down by order of severity; if his Department will take steps to treat non-toxic algal bloom accumulated on the North Wales coast; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas: Levels of algal blooms are recorded continuously at one site in Liverpool Bay and less regularly elsewhere. Relatively high levels of algae occur in Liverpool Bay in spring and summer, in comparison to offshore regions or shallow regions not in the vicinity of major rivers. However, they do not cause a problem and are similar to other regions around the coast of England that are in the vicinity of major rivers. An exact comparison of levels is difficult due to differences in the frequency of measuring algal blooms. They also vary greatly from year to year.
Algal blooms eventually sink to the sea bed, and are consumed by predators or transported by tides and currents to other regions. Certain types of bloom-forming algae can, under certain conditions, be transported onto the shore and may result in visible scums along the shoreline. These present no health hazard to humans and pose a limited threat to organisms that live on the shore.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what public funding her Department has made available in each of the last 10 years to (a) the Natural Environment Research Council and (b) other bodies for the purposes of conducting agricultural biotechnology research. 
Jonathan Shaw [holding answer 28 June 2007]: The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) does not fund the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) directly. However, DEFRA does let contracts to NERC-sponsored research institutes. DEFRA research and development (R and D) contracts all research organisations for agricultural biotechnology work are summarised in the table attached.
For this purpose, DEFRA has defined biotechnology as being the application of biological organisms, systems and processes to manufacturing and service industries. This definition covers genetic modification research but goes much wider to include fused cell techniques, protein engineering, fermentation and cell culture techniques, the production of vaccines and monoclonal antibodies and many other techniques. It excludes pathogen characterisation and epidemiology.
|Organisations in receipt of DEFRA R and D contracts related to agricultural biotechnology, 2000-01 to 2007-08( 1)|
|Contractor||2000-01||2001-02||2002-03||2003-04||2004-05||2005-06||2006-07( 1)||2007-08( 1)|
|(1)Figures for 2006-07 and 2007-08 figures are provisional.|
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