This guest column is by State Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston.
I recently attended a joint House and Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee meeting on Chronic Wasting Disease, a contagious neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. The main takeaway for me is there still may be far more questions than answers on this issue.
CWD was first labeled as such in the early 1960s. Most of the research is focused on studying prions – diseases which can affect both humans and animals, sometimes spread to humans by infected meat products. Although millions of dollars have been funneled into research labs, little progress has been realized.
Funding has, however, created what seems to be redundancy with the University of Minnesota continuing to conduct the same or similar research being done by multiple universities across the country. Colorado, reportedly, has been looking into CWD for 40-50 years. These institutions appear to only share information after they publish and patent papers and there doesn’t seem to be concern with redundancy as long as the money continues to flow in.
But, are there other options?
Last February, a neuropathologist from the University of Louisiana had what he believes is a breakthrough. Dr. Frank Bastian has been working on the theory CWD is caused by bacteria. According to this research, the bacteria could be affecting the prions in these animals.
I am told Dr. Bastian offered to come up and be a guest speaker at one of the classes at the U of M (with an association paying his expenses), but nobody took him up on it. I also am told he offered to “co-op” his work with a grad student and walk him through the whole process. This could be an incredible project for a student – potentially Nobel prize-winning stuff – but, again, no takers.
Dr. Bastian continues to explore a cure and claims he may have a solution within months, but the U of M has not looked into Dr. Bastian’s work. In other words, our flagship institution has chosen to not explore what could be a simple and less expensive solution to CWD that is within reach.
I don’t know whether Dr. Bastian is right or wrong, but it is rather concerning that our “houses of higher learning” can be so closed-minded.
It is disappointing that we don’t do more to bring in some outside sources with different perspectives to share regarding CWD. There is a lot of CWD talent out there, yet we always hear controlled testimony, with the DNR spoon-feeding us whatever messages the agency wants us to hear.
Another interesting bullet point from the recent joint meeting is the Federal Drug Administration has prevented deer farms from using antibiotics that may have been holding CWD at bay in the past. And, through artificial insemination, these farms could potentially bread disease resistant animals.
I will be digging deeper into these solutions and hope to have hearings on bills during the next legislative session.