Korean Environment Ministry 2018 budget plan lacks significant investment in non-animal safety science for chemicals and biocides

Humane Society International

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Humane Society International is calling on the Korean government to review the Environment Ministry’s recently introduced budget plan and are asking for the adoption of a chemical safety assessment policy using advanced non-animal technologies to replace or minimize animal testing, as mandated by Korean laws on chemicals and new biocides.

The Ministry of Environment budget plan, called a ‘Sustainable human and environment protection’ plan for 2018, includes increased funding to manage chemicals for public health and environment protection. Without a mandate to focus on non-animal science, however, funding proposed would continue to go to outdated and cruel animal testing. The ministry is expected to submit its budget to the National Assembly on 1 September.

HSI Korea Policy Adviser Borami Seo said, “The Ministry of the Environment is a leading authority responsible for developing better science for public safety. Investing in chemical assessment with non-animal methods is not only about protecting animals, it is about improving human safety. We urge the government and members of National Assembly to review the 2018 budget plan before it is too late.”

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HSI urges Korean environmental authorities to prioritize investment in development of modern and more accurate non-animal science for chemical assessment, as is the case in the United States, the European Union and other countries. A ‘21st century’ approach to toxicology offers better prediction models based on understanding human-biology rather than relying on cruel animal models. The U.S. National Research Council proposed this in 2007, motivating U.S. agencies to invest in the ‘Tox21’ approach to toxicological testing that focuses on using modern techniques along with fewer or no animals. This paradigm shift has also caused the European Union to launch the multi-year Safety Evaluation Ultimately Replacing Animal Testing (SEURAT-1) and EU-ToxRisk projects, with a combined budget of €80 million, toward safety testing without using animals along with several other similar governmental research projects aimed at reducing animal use while increasing predictability for humane safety around the world.

The new non-animal technologies are already capable of assessing safety and risk with the same level of human relevance and predictiveness as the old animal testing system.  However, the new approach costs a fraction of animal testing methods and could be completed in just a few years compared to the 500 or more years that would be needed to test the 30,000 or so chemicals now identified in the EU chemical registration and evaluation process. 

The 2018 plan includes an $8.6 million investment for small-to-medium size enterprises. Since Korea’s Act on the Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals (known as K-REACH) came into effect, the government has provided support to these enterprises to help reduce the cost for data production for chemical registration. However, this support resulted in unnecessary spending on the production of animal test data because either test data already exists or the risk of a chemical is well known. Instead, investing in data production using non-animal methods and maximizing in sharing existing chemical information will greatly benefit the industries and avoid redundant animal use. HSI raised these concerns with the Korean government and is now urging Korean environmental authorities to ensure that repeat animal tests are no longer carried out.

Media contact: Raúl Arce-Contreras, rcontreras@humanesociety.org, +1-301-721-6440