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New B.C. plant and animal health lab in planning stages

February 8, 2023  By British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture

The B.C. government is planning to build a new Plant and Animal Health Centre to provide diagnostic services that support agricultural producers, food safety and the growth of a resilient food system in the province.

The new facility will be based in the Fraser Valley and designed to offer laboratory services to B.C.’s agricultural and veterinary sectors, including disease and virus diagnosis in wild and domestic birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians, as well as hundreds of plant pests and diseases.

“We know how crucial it is for farmers to have access to prompt plant and animal health diagnosis locally,” said Pam Alexis, provincial minister of agriculture and food. “A new Plant and Animal Health Centre is part of our government’s commitment to help our agriculture sector succeed through challenging times.”

Though it has returned to near full operations and services, the current Plant and Animal Health Centre in Sumas Prairie was severely damaged by the 2021 flooding and is at risk of future flooding. A business plan is being prepared for a new facility that will provide enhanced animal and plant health services to B.C. producers in a more secure setting.

“Healthy plants and animals are critical to B.C.’s agriculture sector and to the farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods depend on them,” said Stan Vander Waal, president, B.C. Agriculture Council. “The investment made by the province demonstrates that agriculture is valued in British Columbia and working to ensure our communities’ food security.”

The business plan is expected to be complete in late 2023 and will identify potential locations for the centre, as well as opportunities for additional supporting locations with specialized services in other parts of the province. The new centre will work to involve partnerships with academic institutions and public health agencies, as well as building on the current operational model, which is regarded as Western Canada’s leading full-service veterinary laboratory.

“The loss of the lab during the 2021 flooding was devastating to the agricultural community. We are excited to hear that a new, higher-capacity lab will be located in a safer area of the Fraser Valley,” said Katie Lowe, executive director, B.C. Egg. “The lab staff have worked tirelessly to support poultry farmers during the avian influenza outbreak and we thank them for their dedication. A new lab will only improve the already excellent work being done there.”

The B.C. Animal Health Centre currently handles more than 6,000 case submissions annually while diagnosing, monitoring and assisting in controlling and preventing diseases such as avian influenza, West Nile virus and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease). It is one of three laboratories in Canada accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) and one of two with AAVLD and International Organization for Standardization accreditation.

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