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Review clears B.C. animal testing lab of potential conflicts around fish farms

Global News files

B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture says a newly released Deloitte report, that found no conflict of interest operating within the government’s animal health centre, is good news.

This comes after Premier John Horgan appointed his top deputy, Don Wright, to review the integrity of its animal testing lab after concerns were raised about a potential conflict of interest in test results done on farmed salmon last year.

Lana Popham says when it’s lab’s credibility was put into question — they had to take action.

READ MORE: New study shows B.C. wild salmon are being infected by virus coming from fish farms

“We initiated this review to make sure that there wasn’t anything happening. Our lab is world class, highly respected, but the recommendations we received shows that we can improve and so when we take recommendations like that from this review, they’re very serious and we’ll be implementing them.”

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Popham says a total of nine recommendations were made, focusing on developing conflict of interest guidelines, conducting audits, and improving information sharing with the public.

“When a scientist gets invited to speak at a stakeholder meeting, we have allowed the stakeholders to pay for accommodation and travel,” Popham said. “It was recommended that that may be a conflict of interest, so we stopped that practice.”

READ MORE: B.C. Environmentalists: Do farmed salmon threaten wild species with disease?

The review costed about $100,000 plus travel, and Popham said it was money well-spent to clear up any doubts in the lab.

But Karen Wristen with the non-profit group Living Oceans Society said she saw the report, and there are still unanswered questions.

She said, for example, one recommendation about developing agreed definitions for disease.

“Or adopting those from other countries in the interim until some agreement can be reached. But they don’t really address the problem head on which is, you know, for years now that lab has been using its own diagnostic methods when there are internationally established methods for diagnosing these diseases, why the departure?” Wristen questioned.

Wristen says she never thought there was a conflict of interest, and doubts it would have brought up a financial interest.

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