A lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require the government to track livestock from birth to slaughter.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to immediately establish a nationwide livestock identification system.

Implantable VeriChip, about the size of a grain of rice.

The company she has in mind for the project is Digital Angel Corporation, originally formed to produce implantable tracking systems for humans.

“The safety of our food supply is critical to our families,” said McCollum, who introduced the legislation Wednesday. “This technology will allow the Department of Agriculture to track an incidence of ‘mad cow’ or other diseases in livestock like chronic wasting disease discovered in the United States within 48 hours. We are fortunate to have a pioneer in this important technology right in my home town of South Saint Paul, Minnesota.”

The first U.S. case of mad cow disease was reported Dec. 23 in an imported Holstein in Washington state. An infectious degenerative brain disease occurring in cattle, ‘mad cow’ disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is believed to have the potential to infect humans who consume beef products from infected livestock. The resultant human disease is a variant form of Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease.

The one reported case of this variant CJD in the United States is in a young woman who contracted it while residing in the UK and developed symptoms after moving to the U.S. McCollum’s legislation would result in the secretary of agriculture considering a variety of existing technologies. The measure also provides producers with financial aid from the USDA in order to hasten transitioning to such a system.

The move could prove to be a boon for Digital Angel, a subsidiary of Applied Digital Solutions of West Palm Beach Fla.

In 1999, the company announced acquisition of a patent for an “implantable transceiver” which it said would allow “continuous” GPS-tracking and remote monitoring storing of vital signs of humans.

Soon thereafter, ADS announced the strategic acquisition of Destron Fearing Corporation, a company with a proven track record in the animal tagging and tracking industry. With the purchase came critical and related Destron Fearing patents as well.

The first implantable identification chips for humans were issued in 2001, on the heels of 9-11, under a new name, VeriChip.

The VeriChip is a syringe-injectable radio-frequency identification and data chip that can be read from a few feet away and is wirelessly writeable. VeriChip, a subsidiary of Applied Digital Solutions, also markets portal readers which can read the ID chips when people enter buildings or pass checkpoints.

The Digital Angel GPS unit for humans later was renamed a “PLD,” or Personal Location Device, and Digital Angel went on to market animal tracking technology and a tracking wristwatch/pager system for people. The essence of VeriChip is Digital Angel technology, said McKeage.

Tapping into government market

Targeting government as lucrative market has long been a strategy of Applied Digital and its subsidiaries. Most recently, in September of 2003, ADS retained the services of Stanley L. Reid, to market VeriChip implants to federal agencies.

A longtime technology industry executive, Reid was the former acting director for defense programs at the U.S. Department of Energy under the Reagan administration. In this capacity, Reid held both U.S. Department of Defense and Energy security clearances.

Reid also served as Washington representative for Rockwell International from 1983 to 1986. For three years prior to this appointment, he worked as a legislative director for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, acting as a direct liaison to the Committee on Science and Technology.

While Applied’s Digital Angel works to promote its animal tracking technology to the government, and ADS subsidiary Government Telecommunications Inc continues to score federal contracts, Reid is promoting VeriChip as a way to control authorized access to government installations and private-sector buildings. Included in the marketing campaign are nuclear power plants, national research laboratories, airports and seaports.

ADS representatives tout VeriChip as a stand-alone, “tamper-proof” personal verification technology which can also form an elemental part of a multi-faceted approach to security which could include the use of standard ID badges, smart cards and advanced biometric devices .

Meanwhile, former Applied CEO Richard Sullivan, who had propelled the company into the international media spotlight due to public fascination with its plan for human implants, left ADS to form a new company, called Global Digital Solutions.

The core of GDSI actually was formed in late 2003 by former top executives of Applied Digital Solutions, Inc., including Sullivan and former Chief Operating Officer Jerome C. Artigliere. GDSI plans to target the lucrative U.S. government contract market in three specific segments: communications; security; and advanced parts and services in the telecommunications/computer field.

On Feb. 4, GDSI announced a reverse merger agreement had been signed with a New Jersey company, to enable GDSI to become a publicly traded company in the over-the-counter market. Stock will temporarily be traded under the CVBS symbol, until a new symbol is issued.

Meanwhile, Digital Angel has its competitors for any proposed federal mandated tracking system but claims its BioTherm capability – which enables the wireless monitoring of temperature, a key indicator of livestock health – sets the company apart.

BioTherm is currently being beta-tested in the UK, and company spokesman Jay McKeage said he was unaware of any competitor who could provide both tracking and remote temperature monitoring of livestock.

“Digital Angel currently has a 45 percent market share in the animal tagging business,” McKeage said.

AllFlex USA Inc. in Dallas dominates the market internationally, according to the New York Times.

Kevin McGrath, President and CEO of St. Paul-based Digital Angel Corporation, praised Rep. McCollum for her efforts.

“We thank Congresswoman McCollum for being a leader on this issue,” said McGrath. “She has consistently been at the forefront looking for ways to use existing technology to prevent future crises involving Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and other diseases which threaten U.S. livestock.”

Shares of Digital Angel rose over 10 percent following the news Thursday, closing at $3.42 yesterday, down 1.95 percent.

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