Read this story from the Toronto Star on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's attempts to shut down the world-renowned lab of Dr. Fred Kibenge over disputed tests that suggest a deadly salmon virus is loose on BC's coast. (Dec. 14, 2012)
CHARLOTTETOWN—There’s something fishy going on in Prince Edward Island.
A professor at Atlantic Veterinary College says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is trying to discredit his work after tests he conducted showed a virus in British Columbia’s valuable wild salmon population.
Dr. Frederick Kibenge, who found the infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus in October 2011, is recognized by the World Organisation for Animal Health — known as the OIE — as an expert on the virus.
Despite Kibenge’s results, and a Department of Fisheries and Oceans lab in B.C. that also found ISA, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has maintained that West Coast salmon is free of the virus, which has never been found in the province before.
If the virus is confirmed, it could have a devastating impact on the wild salmon industry in the province.
The OIE says Kibenge’s results in other cases were questioned by OIE member countries — it wouldn’t say which ones — and that it conducted an audit of his lab this summer. The organization says the “conclusions of the audit were unfavourable and showed that a series of weaknesses in the system have a direct impact on the quality of diagnosis conducted by AVC.”
Kibenge, chair of the department of pathology and microbiology and professor of virology at AVC, where he has been since 1989, says the international cases were “never questioned” when the OIE met with him. The only case talked about was in British Columbia.
The CFIA had earlier conducted its own inspection of the lab and raised concerns, which the AVC said it would address.
Kibenge’s lab is one of only two OIE-designated labs worldwide that studies the virus; the other is in Norway.
A letter from the CFIA, dated Nov. 5, was sent to the OIE supporting a recommendation to temporarily suspend the OIE designation of Kibenge’s lab. The letter was from Dr. Brian Evans, the Canadian government representative to the OIE and also a senior manager at the CFIA.
In the letter, Evans acknowledges the college’s efforts to “address the scientific basis for the reporting of disparate and non-repeatable results and their respect for the OIE process and requirements.”
Kibenge accuses the federal government of being unhappy with his results.
“It was done to completely cut me out — destroy my reputation,” says Kibenge, referring to the audits as a “hatchet job.”