Reducing Animal Experiments Across the Globe
PCRM is working on a global scale to save animals from use in toxicity testing—and our work is paying off. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently released its three-year working plan, and thanks to efforts by PCRM and others, the plan contains numerous humane alternatives to toxicity tests using animals.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is an international body that coordinates testing policies from various countries. In 2002, the International Council for Animal Protection in OECD Programmes (ICAPO) formed to incorporate alternative methods that can replace, reduce, and refine animal use in chemical testing. PCRM has served as the elected secretariat of ICAPO since 2006, a position that has given PCRM scientists the opportunity to organize ICAPO’s efforts to comment on proposed test guidelines and policies, nominate scientific experts to OECD meetings, and advocate for the adoption of nonanimal test guidelines.
The OECD recently published its Test Guidelines Program work plan, which outlines activities to create or revise more than 80 internationally harmonized guidelines and guidance documents that impact the use of animals in toxicity testing. More than one-quarter of these documents follow the “Three Rs”: They replace the use of animals in scientific experiments; they reduce the number of animals used; and/or they refine experiments so the animals experience less pain and suffering. Specifically, new in vitro (in a test tube) guidelines will include a human skin model test guideline for skin irritation (which could replace part of what’s known as the Draize test, performed in rabbits), human cell line assays for endocrine-disruption testing, and in vitro tests for genotoxicity and carcinogenicity prediction. ICAPO experts are very excited by progress in the endocrine disruption area, as thousands of animals could be killed under implementation of the EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program without the development of these alternatives.
The new work plan also includes a new test guideline and guidance document, both of which will reduce the number of fish used in acute aquatic toxicity testing, and a plan to draft two new in vitro test guidelines for identifying and classifying substances that might be harmful to the eyes. These tests could replace the eye portion of the Draize skin and eye test, which is currently conducted by pouring substances into the eyes of un-anaesthetized rabbits. After a long wait, these in vitro assays were recently validated by the U.S. Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods.
Since PCRM became secretariat, ICAPO has added the Dr Hadwen Trust, a British research organization that focuses on promoting nonanimal testing methods, to its membership. Several proposals ICAPO submitted to the OECD for consideration since PCRM became secretariat have been taken up by member countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany, including the revision of reproductive, carcinogenicity, and chronic toxicity tests. These and other proposed revisions could save hundreds—even thousands—of animals each year.