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Bone Meal and Mad Cow Disease
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  There has been renewed publicity lately about Mad Cow Disease (bovine spongiform  encephalopathy or BSE). Suggestions have been made that there may be a link between the use of bone meal that came from BSE infected cattle and the contraction of specific cases of BSE in England. Specifically, a Dr. Gadjusek felt that there was a possibility of contracting BSE through inhaling bone meal dust during garden applications. This has made some gardeners in the United States nervous about continuing to use bone meal in their gardening. Let me give a brief summary of the facts as presented by Janet Wintermute, an editor for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the USDA site devoted to this issue.
  1. The USDA has not allowed British beef or cattle-generated products to be imported since 1989.
  2. Since 1989, USDA veterinarians have done necropsies on the brains of nearly 12,000 U.S. cattle that showed BSE-like symptoms. None of these cattle had BSE.
  3. Preliminary results of a USDA-funded study at Harvard University show the risk of BSE occurring in the U.S. is almost non-existent due to the prevention steps taken.  The comprehensive final report is expected during the spring of 2001.
  4. During the late 1970s, England started using a heat-only method of treating animal carcasses that were to be used for protein-based meal and bone meal. Prior to that time, they used a combination of heat and solvent extraction. We now know that heat plus solvent extraction   kills the BSE causal organism but heat without solvent extraction does not. Fortunately, the U.S. has never abandoned the heat plus solvent extraction method.
  To summarize, it seems very unlikely that we need to be concerned about using bone meal in our gardens because:   The U.S. has never had a confirmed case of BSE even though the USDA has been actively looking for cases since 1989. Our method of preparing bone meal kills the BSE organism. If you want more information on this topic:
  - point your Web-browser to:  (WU)

Ward Upham, Extension Associate; Matt Fagerness, Turfgrass; Ned Tisserat, Plant Pathology
K-State Research and Extension Horticulture
3601 Throckmorton Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506
(785) 532-6173             FAX: (785) 532-5780

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