- BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), or Mad Cow
and its human form, nvCJD (New Variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease), are
incurable brain disorders. Holes appear in victims' brains, then they
demented and die. The diseases are not caused by a virus or a bacterium,
but by a mysterious type of twisted protein, known as a "prion".
The prion can propagate itself by causing other proteins to twist into
the same shape. Prions can be passed on by eating the flesh of another
animal, and are resistant to cooking and digestion.
- A theory about how prions are formed suggests that
pesticides could be partly to blame. Two people have already died defending
this theory, apparently at the hands of professional assassins working
either for the British government or the chemical industry. So the theory
needs to be taken seriously.
- BSE first appeared in the UK in 1985. Since then, the
disease has affected half of the cow herds in the country. New Variant
CJD also first appeared in the UK, ten years later: to date, around 90
people have died from it. Both BSE and CDJ are beginning to spread
the rest of Europe; today, 30 European countries have had exports of their
cattle banned. The diseases have the potential to destroy the entire
cattle industry, and kill thousands of people. The death toll from nvCJD
is increasing by 35% per year, and the disease has a gestation period of
twenty years. Some projections suggest that hundreds of thousands of people
could eventually die from it.
- Given the huge amount at stake, one might expect that
any credible theory would be welcomed. Yet Mark Purdey, a British farmer
from Somerset, has suffered constant harassment and has had to support
his research from his own pocket. Purdey has a theory which might explain
the mystery of why BSE and new variant nvCJD started in the UK, and why
they are so much more serious there. However, since he went public with
his ideas, some rather unfortunate things have happened:
- 1. Both
and the lawyer defending his case died in suspicious road accidents. His
second lawyer also had a car crash, but survived.
2. When an article about his work appeared in
a national British newspaper, his telephone lines were cut. He was
unable to take follow up calls from other papers and television stations.
3. His farm house was burnt down just before he was
about to move in.
4. His science library was destroyed by a
5. When he travels around the country to talk about
his theory, he is constantly trailed. Purdey believes that the root cause
of BSE is an imbalance of magnesium and copper, exacerbated, in the case
of the UK, by the use of a highly toxic pesticide known as phosmet.
is an organophosphate nerve toxin, originally developed by the Nazis. It
is also related to the drug Thalidamide, which causes birth defects.
- Phosmet is made by Zeneca, a subdivision of the British
chemical giant ICI. A week after the British government first announced
the link between BSE and nvCJD, Zeneca sold the patent for phosmet to a
PO Box company in Arizona, apparently to avoid potential legal
- The theory started when Purdey noticed that his cows,
unlike those of his neighbours, were not getting BSE. Cows often suffer
from a parasitic infection known as warble fly. Since Purdey is an organic
farmer, he treated his herd with derris root powder, a natural remedy.
Other farmers were using phosmet, which was later made compulsory
the UK. When Purdey bought an infected cow from another herd, he was able
to reduce the symptoms of BSE by injecting oxime, which is an antidote
to pesticide poisoning. However, officials from MAFF (the Ministry for
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) turned up to kill the cow before the
could be completed.
- As well as the link to phosmet use, Purdey discovered
that brain diseases such as BSE and nvCJD appear in clusters in many places
around the world. The link seems to be a lack of copper and an excess of
- For example, in some areas of Colorado and Wyoming, 4-6%
of deer and elk suffer from CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease), which is related
to nvCJD. These animals live in areas where the soils are very high in
manganese. In Slovakia, where the incidence of nvCJD is a thousand times
higher than normal, most of the victims live near a glass making plant
(where manganese is used) or else down-wind of one of two large
- In the UK, two factors have increased the amount of
which cows consume. Until 1988, cows were fed chicken manure. The chicken
had been fed manganese to strengthen their eggs, but 98% of it ended up
in the manure. In addition, a fungicide rich in manganese was used on crops
at that time.
- According to Purdey, a lack of copper and an excess of
manganese causes proteins in the nervous system of foetal cattle to change
into the abnormal prion forms found in BSE and nvCJD. Phosmet facilitates
this process by binding to copper, and therefore reducing the amount
to brain tissues.
- Recently, Dr David Brown, a chemist at Cambridge
showed that manganese can replace copper in brain proteins, thereby
them into prions. Dr Brown lost his funding, and was not able to continue
- The BSE crisis started in the UK, and that country still
has the highest rate of the disease. Purdey believes that this was because
the British government was the only one to enforce systemic phosmet at
such a high dose. Phosmet is used elsewhere, but either on a voluntary
basis, or at a much lower dose, or non-systemically.
- However, there is a long lag between the peak of phosmet
use and the incidence of BSE. Purdey says that this is for two reasons.
First, cows are most susceptible to phosmet damage when they are in the
womb. Second, phosmet has to reach a certain concentration in the
before it has an effect.
- Quite apart from the direct attacks on Mr Purdey, the
chemical industry have launched a media campaign to discredit his research.
Although MAFF claims that any credible theories for BSE will receive
Purdey has received nothing.
- The effort that the chemical industry has apparently
gone to to discredit Mark Purdey mirrors the experiences of Alice Stewart,
the scientist who first showed the link between radiation and cancer.
who supported her had their cars rammed. Maybe in this case as well, the
truth will come out in the end.
- Dr. Paul Kail has a Ph.D. in nueroscience from Cambridge
University and is founder and Director of the Animal Consciousness
which can be reached via www.animals.org.
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