March 22, 2016
U.S. Pesticide Regulators Move to Scale Back Animal Testing Requirements
HSUS and HSI laud decision that could save thousands of animals
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled a plan to significantly reduce the use of animals in agency-mandated pesticide testing for “acute” effects such as eye and skin irritation and “lethal dose” studies. The new plan is part of an overarching move toward new technologies that are more efficient, predictive, cost-effective and humane, and follows years of scientific dialogue between the EPA and The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International and other stakeholders.
“Science has advanced dramatically since the 1920s and 40s when rat lethal poisoning tests and rabbit eye and skin irritation tests were first conceived,” said Dr. Catherine Willett, director of regulatory toxicology, risk assessment and alternatives for The HSUS and HSI. “We commend EPA for its leadership in working to replace this obsolete and especially cruel form of animal testing, and look now to pesticide regulators in Brazil, Canada, India and Japan and other major markets to follow the U.S. example.”
EPA’s announcement pertains to six short-term animal tests: eye and skin irritation testing in rabbits, skin allergy tests in guinea pigs or mice, and lethal poisoning tests in rodents or rabbits via oral force-feeding, forced inhalation and skin exposure. This so-called “6-pack” of tests has traditionally been required by EPA to inform hazard labeling for the more than 500 new pesticide formulations brought to market each year, as well as for every new pesticide “active substance” (the ingredient that gives a pesticide its toxic effect).
EPA’s proposal to prevent duplicative testing has the potential to spare thousands of animals from extreme pain, suffering and death, but only if companies make full use of these waiver opportunities and pesticide regulators in other countries agree to accept them. If even one major international market continues to demand redundant 6-pack animal testing, actual gains for animals will be greatly undermined.
Globally, Humane Society International is leading a similar scientific dialogue with industry and regulators in Brazil, Canada, India and Japan towards the elimination of redundant animal test requirements and optimizing processes for acceptance and use of available, valid animal testing alternatives.