The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) officially opened the U.S.-based liaison office in College Station, Texas, during a ceremony Nov. 6 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Center.
“Our modern agricultural economy is highly dependent upon two things: freedom from disease, and trade,” said Dr. Melissa Berquist, director of the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD) in College Station. “Following the outbreak of an infectious livestock or poultry disease, the ability to efficiently implement science-based standards and demonstrate freedom from disease is imperative to limiting the loss of revenue, ensuring safe trade and protecting food security.”
Berquist said better understanding global animal health and zoonotic threats improves preparedness, prevention and response.
“Supporting the development of science-based standards and providing effective tools and training for disease surveillance, control and eradication is at the core of the institute’s mission,” she noted.
The new office is co-located with and hosted by IIAD, part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research and a member of The Texas A&M University System, and an OIE collaborating center in the specialty of biological threat reduction.
As an intergovernmental organization responsible for improving animal health and welfare worldwide, OIE oversees the regulation of international markets and is recognized by the World Trade Organization as the standard-setting body for animal health regulatory activities.
“I’m happy to welcome the OIE to the Texas A&M campus and look forward to consistent engagement,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “We are glad to give the world broad access to our experts in agriculture, veterinary medicine and research.”
Dr. Jean-Phillippe Dop, OIE deputy director general and veterinarian, said the opening of a liaison office is a first for the organization. “This new U.S.-based office will open additional lines of communication between the OIE and U.S. veterinary and public health parties, allowing for better collaboration when it comes to disaster preparedness, emergency planning and animal disease surveillance,” Dop said.
Traditionally, permanent official relations with OIE member countries as well as international and regional organizations are maintained through the official national delegate and the 12 regional and sub-regional representations, covering every continent. While the OIE liaison office will not change any of the traditional communication channels, the office will provide new avenues for high-level engagement with U.S. government agencies, non-governmental organizations and private-sector constituents, according to officials.
OIE said the strengthened relationship with U.S. animal production stakeholders is expected to reinforce the understanding of OIE's international standards at the national level, as well as an increase appreciation of the importance and challenges of global animal health transparency.
Designated as an OIE collaborating center in 2014, IIAD provides its expertise internationally to support and implement animal health initiatives, provide scientific and technical training and conduct scientific research focused on global animal health.
“Both OIE and IIAD have a long-standing practice of working in partnership with existing organizations in academia, government and private industry. We each believe animal health is best advanced by assisting, coordinating and making use of the activities of existing resources and infrastructure when possible,” Berquist said. “By co-locating their U.S. liaison office in College Station, OIE has not only built upon its previous relationship with IIAD but also gained wider access to a premier research institution that complements OIE’s science-based standards. With proven partnerships, the establishment of this office is sure to bring new and exciting opportunities to all parties.”