U of G Scientists Provide Expertise on Deadly Virus Affecting Pork Industry

January 24, 2014 - In the News

U of G scientists are making headlines today, talking about a new disease threatening the Canadian pork industry. The first case of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) – caused by a virus that’s killed more than 1 million piglets and driven up pork prices in the United States -- was confirmed in Middlesex County by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food on Thursday.

Tests confirming the virus were conducted in U of G’s Animal Health Lab.

Bob Friendship, a Department of Population Medicine professor in the Ontario Veterinary College and a swine health management specialist, was interviewed by CBC news Friday. Earlier, Friendship discussed the topic with CTV, the Globe and Mail and Global News.

Davor Ojkic, a virologist in the Animal Health Laboratory, did an interview for CTV News Channel Friday. Ojkic, a veterinarian who earned a PhD in pathobiology from OVC, explained to TV viewers what PED is and why it’s devastating to pig farmers.

U of G's Ridgetown Campus also hosted a series of town hall meetings for Ontario Pork earlier this month about the economic effects of PED entering Canada.

PED is highly contagious among pigs but poses no food safety threat to humans. Larger pigs can become immune to PED, but the virus kills nearly all infected piglets. The cold weather allows the virus to survive in trucks and on clothing and equipment, enabling its transmission between farms.

Andreas Boecker, a food, agricultural and resource economics professor, did a series of live interviews Thursday morning with CBC Radio stations in 10 locations, including Kelowna, Regina, Thunder Bay and Cape Breton. He discussed consumer responses to a recent finding that pesticide residue is found on nearly half of organic produce. He also talked about implications for Canadian regulation and procedures regarding organic certification and inspection, as well as possible consequences for the organic industry. Boecker studies agricultural economics, consumer behaviour and consumer trends in food purchasing.

Larry Harder, a professor in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, was on CBC Radio's Ontario Morning Thursday. He discussed brownfield developments with host Wei Chen. The subject is making headlines this week as the City of Kingston considers a large, controversial development on former industrial land. Besides teaching at U of G, Harder has advised cities on brownfield redevelopment and urban planning as a consultant and independent landscape architect.

Sylvain Charlebois was interviewed by numerous CBC Radio stations across the country Wednesday about butter versus margarine. The age-old debate heated up recently after a leading brand started adding butter to its margarine. Charlebois, associate dean of the College of Management and Economics, discussed the debate from a food marketing standpoint. He also published a column on the high cost of low food prices in the Thompson Citizen .

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