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THIS week saw a landmark in the history of the veterinary profession and, more specifically, its management of disease threats to food security. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced on June 28, 2011 that its member countries had passed a resolution declaring rinderpest to have been eradicated globally, building on an announcement in May that the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) at its General Session had passed a resolution to the effect that all countries in the world had been formally accredited as free from rinderpest.
These events mark the fact that the virus is no longer present in any of its natural hosts on this planet. No longer is it a cause of disease or a constraint to international trade. What is not generally appreciated is that the eradication of rinderpest has yielded benefits that surpass virtually every other development programme in agriculture, and will continue to do so into the future. For example, a preliminary study in Chad shows that over the period 1963 to 2002, each dollar spent on rinderpest eradication led to a benefit …