NABC Report 04: Animal Biotechnology: Opportunities & Challenges
Published 1992 by NABC.
Animal well-being, the safety of animal food products and regulatory issues are addressed in this report along with the examination of links between animal biotechnology and new opportunities in human and animal medicine.
Animal well-being: Will developments in animal biotechnology produce new or unanticipated issues for the well-being of agricultural animals? The two groups - representing animals and representing agriculture - discussed the criteria for extending concern to animals. Is it ethical to balance the relief of human pain and suffering from genetic diseases with the large numbers of animals that would experience great suffering? There was consensus that it is acceptable under conditions where animals do not experience great suffering, to use animals for human use—whether for food production, as “bioreactors,” or as research models for improving human and animal health.
Links to Human Health: Recombinant DNA research in animal science continues to establish breakthroughs in reproductive technology, enhance genetic changes in animals and improve animal health and often spills over to human applications. However, researchers can expect to face some of the problems that have existed in public health and the biomedical research policy arena for some time such as intense public interest in reproductive technologies, in part because of their relevance to the abortion issue, and also a level of public concern for the well-being of animals exceeding that hitherto experienced in connection with food animals.
Communication: If biotechnology is to gain public acceptance, policies must be developed within an open framework for input by all interested stake-holders. Public concerns and questions about biotechnology must be addressed in a manner that inspires confidence in the regulatory process.
Defining Food Safety: Factors influencing confidence in food safety include whether the food is being produced and provided through a trustworthy source. Many participants agreed that non-science factors (e.g., social, economic) can influence whether a source is deemed trustworthy and should be considered in the assessment of foodborne risk.
Regulatory Policy: There is a need for clear regulatory policies for agricultural biotechnology for food, pharmaceuticals or animal use. There is frustration on the side of industry faced with different regulations depending on product classification as a drug or a food. However, there are several areas, including fish and wildlife, where animal scientists are undertaking biotechnology research in the absence of clear regulatory authority.
Greater public understanding of biotechnology processes and products and greater public participation in the decision-making process is essential, if agricultural biotechnology is, indeed, to be the growth industry of the 21st century.
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