Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Education Programs

Nolan Hartwig, Faculty, Veterinary Medicine

            The diagnosis of a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) infected cow in late 2003 and a second cow, belatedly diagnosed in May 2005, pose a significant threat to the U.S. cattle industry, primarily by potentially undermining the consumer image of beef as a safe, wholesome food.  Beef has the highest economic value of any agricultural commodity produced in the U.S. 

            The technical nature of BSE and associated transmissible spongiform encephalopathies demands intensive and effective educational presentations by trusted sources of research-based information.  Information and educational programs provided by Extension Veterinary Medicine and the Iowa Beef Center made Iowa State University (ISU) a nationally and internationally recognized source of accurate, reliable, research-based information.  Eighteen formal presentations and articles addressing BSE were presented to the public, livestock producers, health groups, and others.  Numerous interviews were provided to the international (Japan and others), national, regional, and local media.  An estimated 180 requests for technical information related to BSE were handled by Extension Veterinary Medicine.  The Iowa Beef Center also provided socio-economic analysis of the effects of BSE on markets and consumers.

            An international symposium, attended by 230 scientists from throughout the world, was held in Ames, Iowa in October 2004.  Iowa State University was a co-sponsor of this symposium.  ISU Extension specialists and scientists played an active role in the conference.  In conjunction with the symposium, funding was secured to present a general public seminar for producers, local regulatory officials, university specialists, and veterinarians.  University scientists and USDA researchers were major presenters at this seminar.

            The BSE education program has played a major role in reassuring the public about the safety of beef and dairy products, maintaining market viability, and enhancing the security of a vital commodity in the state and nation.



Page last updated: July 8, 2006
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