Now, pesticide firms to go slow on animal tests

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on January 15, 2018

The latest directive urges companies to consider new validated alternative methods to animal testing

Insecticide Board recognises human cell-based alternatives

After a giant leap in cosmetics and a small step with drugs, now the pesticides industry seems to be headed in a direction that could save animals from being put through “obsolete” tests.

The Registration Committee of the Central Insecticide Board has revised its pesticide testing regulations to recognise modern human cell-based alternatives to rabbit tests for the assessment of eye and skin irritation.

OECD commitment

The move taken by the Board, which comes under the Agriculture Ministry, could spare many animals from pain and death in crude 1940s-era experiments, said a note from Humane Society International/India (HSI India). The decision echoes directives of the Health Ministry over the last several years. In 2013, India outlawed testing cosmetics on animals and in 2015 it said drug companies did not have to repeat pre-clinical toxicity tests on animals in India if the safety profile of the product had been established overseas from labs following Good Laboratory Practices. This was in line with India’s OECD commitment regarding mutual acceptance of data.

The latest revised ‘Guidance Document on Toxicology for Registration of Chemical Pesticides in India’ directs companies to consider new validated alternative methods to animal testing, changing some previously ‘unconditional’ test requirements to conditional requirements, the note said.

“Notoriously cruel inhalation studies, in which rats or mice are confined to whole-body restraint tubes and forced to breathe in toxic vapours for up to six hours a day — sometimes for weeks on end or at such extreme levels to determine the chemical concentration that is lethal — are an example of a requirement that has been downgraded to conditional, meaning they may be waived going forward,” the note explained. HSI/India Managing Director Jayasimha Nuggehalli told BusinessLine that the push for alternatives also came from the pesticide industry that was selling in foreign markets as well. By making previously mandatory tests optional now, the industry will be eager to adopt alternatives to animal testing, he said, especially as India is a signatory to the OCED doctrine, which calls for harmonisation of data where alternatives are available.

Be it the ban on cosmetic testing on animals, the relaxation on repeat tests for drugs and now with pesticides, Jayasimha said, regulatory authorities are moving in the right direction on toxicology tests. But the same cannot be said of medical research, he added, referring to the large animal facility coming up in Hyderabad.

The latest decision involving pesticides comes after more than two years of campaigning by HSI India, members of the pesticide industry and PETA India, the note said.

Much more needed

Jayasimha pointed out that there was still much left to do to bring Indian regulations in line with international best practices for reduction and replacement of animal testing for pesticides. In 2016, HSI/India identified a “dirty dozen” pesticide tests on animals that could be ended immediately without risk to consumer or environmental safety.

The recent action by the CIB-RC addresses two of these test areas, but overlooks other internationally-recognised animal-saving approaches that could spare thousands more animals for every pesticide chemical tested, they pointed out.

This included calculation of a pesticide formulation's toxicity instead of conducting repeat “lethal dose” testing via oral, skin and inhalation routes; an animal-free test strategy for skin allergy that predicts human reactions with greater accuracy than any of the accepted animal tests; and an “extended 1-generation” test that reduces animal use by 1,200 rats per test, the note said.

Published on January 15, 2018

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