The 65th meeting of commissioners was held at Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dr. Javier Trujillo Arriaga, Director for Health and Quality of Food Production, Secretariat of Agriculture, led the Mexican component; Mr. William Hawks, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, led the U.S. delegation. Dr. Charles Onstad, Director of the Southern Plains Area, represented the Administrator of ARS.
Mexico was USDA’s earliest international partner in the successful effort to eradicate screwworm from North America and it remains an indispensable ally in both eradicating this parasitic fly from Central America and in preventing its reinvasion of the north. The world’s only plant for producing the sterile flies used in the program is in Mexico and is funded jointly by the U.S. and Mexican governments.
The commissioners reviewed progress over the last year and the needs for the future. Especial attention was paid to an accidental release of fertile flies in Mexico early in 2003, which was rapidly suppressed by USDA and Mexican staff. The cause of the release was a malfunctioning motor in one of the irradiation chambers and measures to prevent a recurrence were closely examined and discussed. The usefulness of geographic information systems (GIS) developed by ARS to predict the dispersal of flies was particularly praised. Other requests for ARS support included: 1) determination if screwworm plays a part in the transmission of foot and mouth disease, 2) methods to reduce the costs of rearing flies, 3) better methods for the molecular identification of strains, 4) development of ‘artificial wounds’ for field sampling, and 5) isolation of replacement strains to be used in sterile fly production for the Caribbean and South America.
The Commission passed eight resolutions, including two urging ARS to continue and expand its efforts to develop and test GIS and remote sensing for the surveillance and response to outbreaks. The Commission’s next meeting will be held in one year in Mexico.