Identifying the real “Pests”
While the debate over organic farming vs. conventional farming continues, thousands of animals die every day in India over safety testing of pesticides in laboratories.
The safety testing of pesticides and plant protection chemicals consume a considerably major number of animals in the toxicity testing arena. Millions of animals ranging from hen, rats and mice to dogs, goats and monkeys are used for testing the toxic effects of pesticides.
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While the regulatory bodies in the rest of the world including Environment Protection Agency of the U.S and the European Union are looking to reduce animal usage in the safety testing of such chemicals, India is severely lagging behind. Not only is India following an archaic safety testing guideline of the 1970s but also has taken more than 3 years in even coming close to bringing about a new guideline with updated and progressive test methods in it. This new guideline to be known as the Kanungo Committee Report, initiated in 2009, is scheduled to be finally approved after September 2012.
FIAPO has been working to bring in an animal welfare approach into the test methods of the new Kanungo Committee Report. Our aim is to not only bring about better welfare standards of the animals under experimentation, but also to replace several obsolete tests which are still under practise. FIAPO is also aiming to modify the number of animal tests required, which the government has refused to look into with an animal welfare approach.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. How does Pesticide consume a large amount of animals?
A. More than 40 years ago, the Central Insecticide Bureau, under the Ministry of Agriculture, approved and issued a safety testing document called the Gaitonde Committee Report formed under Dr B.B. Gaitonde. The test methods are a part of this Gaitonde Committee Report which prescribes various tests for acute, repeated dose and chronic toxicity involving huge number of animals. These numbers are prescribed according to the science of the 1970s. It is obsolete and ancient when compared to modern scientific knowledge available now.
Tests that may require 5 or 6 animals today required about 50 animals in the 70s and that is what is still followed in India. This is how, to comply with Indian regulatory guidelines, pesticides and other plant protection chemicals would consume and use a major number of animals unnecessarily.
2. What is Kanungo committee report?
A. Kanungo Committee Report is the new set of guideline which will prescribe updated safety testing procedure for pesticides. This will replace the 40 year old Gaitonde Committee Report. The KCR is not yet published and is likely to be approved and be implemented after September 2012. The Kanungo Committee Report is said to be harmonized with the guidelines of the OECD and the European Union.
3. What kinds of tests are there and what kinds of animals are used?
A. A manufacturer has to perform several tests for the regulatory body to approve its pesticide. These include skin tests, inhalation tests, Draize eye test, neurotoxicity test, oral tests and so on.
The most common animals are of course rat and mouse. Hens,dogs,goats and monkeys are also used to test chronic toxicity of these animals.
4. Are these tests not replaceable
A. Many of them are. There are plenty of alternatives available which could, in the long run, replace these tests completely. But due to lack of collaborative nature of the world’s regulatory agencies, most of the tests are refined but not replaced. This means, with the advancement of biology, the dog can be replaced by a mouse and a mouse can be replaced by a fly. A lot of the alternatives are still under validation.
5. What can I do to help?
A. There are plenty of things that one can do to wake the general public and the Government of India up.
i. Spread awareness about the kind of testing that goes on
ii. Send your comments and suggestions to the CIB-RC about the guidelines it brings out from time to time
iii. Urge the Ministry of Agriculture to update the safety testing guidelines of pesticide as soon as possible taking into account the most progressive laws from around the world.