Worldwide Risks of Infectious Animal Diseases Examined in New CAST Issue Paper

February 15, 2005

For Immediate Release

New CAST Issue Paper Examines Worldwide Risks of Animal Diseases

February 15, 2005…Washington, D.C. The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) is releasing a new Issue Paper, Global Risks of Infectious Animal Diseases, comprising a historical review of the most prevalent of these diseases, an outline of the diverse ways they enter a country, an evaluation of contemporary practices that exacerbate disease spread, and an overview of the significant impacts—now and in the future—that such diseases have on communities throughout the world.

Written and evaluated by an international Task Force of 13 authors and 4 reviewers—from France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States—this timely CAST Issue Paper brings together the expertise and experience of scientists and researchers “on the front lines” of this growing worldwide concern.

Specific topics addressed include:

“The recent devastating outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, Newcastle disease, and highly pathogenic avian influenza demonstrate the global risks of foreign animal and emerging diseases,” notes Jim Pearson, Task Force Cochair and international consultant. “These outbreaks have had severe economic, social, and political impacts.”

“Animal diseases will continue to affect food supplies, trade and commerce, and human health and well-being in every part of the world,” adds Mo Salman, Task Force Cochair, Colorado State University, Fort Collins. “Recent outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease), West Nile virus, foot-and-mouth disease in swine, and avian influenza have made headlines and are of concern not only for significant economic costs but also for the potential to ‘cross-over’ to humans.”

Upon discovery of a disease outbreak, the social and political impacts can outgrow the technical and scientific considerations. Consequently, the need for effective risk communication to minimize unwarranted anxiety concerning animal disease crises becomes an important consideration. The threats of foreign animal disease, emerging diseases, new diseases transmitted naturally from animals to humans (zoonoses), and bioterrorism or agroterrorism have connected an uninformed public with the impact of animal diseases.

The ability of animal agriculture to counter contemporary threats of animal diseases is more complex and challenging now than in the past, creating an even greater vulnerability for animal agriculture and requiring awareness of and fluency in current agricultural issues, including:

“As nations have moved into the twenty-first century, society has become progressively more complex and interdependent,” concludes Richard E. Stuckey, Senior Advisor to CAST, “and this complexity is vividly apparent in U.S. agriculture. The driving forces of technology, globalization, restructuring of agricultural systems, consumerism, and a group of contemporary socioeconomic issues are creating a new dynamic between agriculture and the general public.  This new Issue Paper continues CAST’s 33-year commitment to gather, evaluate, and communicate information on critical agricultural issues.”

The full text of the paper Global Risks of Infectious Animal Diseases (Issue Paper No. 28) may be accessed on the CAST website at, along with many of CAST’s other scientific publications, and is available in hardcopy for $5.00 (includes shipping) by contacting the CAST office at 515-292-2125.  CAST is an international consortium of 36 scientific and professional societies. It assembles, interprets, and communicates credible science-based information regionally, nationally, and internationally on food, fiber, agricultural, natural resource, and related societal and environmental issues to its stakeholders—legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public.

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