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Government platform touts 60-80% reduction in statutory animal testing

04/25/2024 10:58 PM
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National Science and Technology Council head Wu Tsung-tsong (fourth left), his deputy Chern Yi-juang (fourth right) and officials pose for photos at the council's news conference in Taipei Wednesday. CNA photo April 25, 2024.
National Science and Technology Council head Wu Tsung-tsong (fourth left), his deputy Chern Yi-juang (fourth right) and officials pose for photos at the council's news conference in Taipei Wednesday. CNA photo April 25, 2024.

Taipei, April 25 (CNA) Statutory animal testing in Taiwan could be reduced by an average of 60 to 80 percent if alternatives to animal testing introduced in regulations were more widely adopted, according to an inter-ministerial platform.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Wu Tsung-tsong (吳政忠), head of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), said that many medicines, pesticides and cosmetics must undergo animal testing before being introduced to the market to ensure they are safe for human use.

However, using a large number of animals for testing is a matter of concern for many people, Wu said, adding that Taiwan, as a developed country, has a responsibility to replace, reduce and refine animal testing.

To achieve that objective, Taiwan's government established the Taiwan Inter-ministerial Platform for Alternative Technology of Animal Testing (TIP-ATAT) in October 2022, aiming to improve related regulations, cultivate talent in the field, and facilitate the development of relevant technologies, Wu said.

On the technological front, TIP-ATAT, a platform formed by NSTC, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Economic Affairs, and Academia Sinica, pushed for the development of non-animal testing methods to replace or decrease reliance on animal testing, according to a press release.

Genie Chin (秦咸靜), director-general of the National Laboratory Animal Center who also oversees the TIP-ATAT, highlighted a biomimetic skin model, which can serve as a substitute for rabbits used in skin irritation and corrosion tests necessary for products such as pesticides and cosmetics.

In terms of application, 102 alternatives to animal testing have been introduced to Taiwan's regulations for pesticides, chemicals and cosmetics, Chin said.

If all of those alternatives were adopted, statutory required animal testing -- accounting for around 10 percent of all animal testing in the country -- could be reduced by 60 to 80 percent, Chin said, adding that around 70 percent of all animal testing conducted in Taiwan is for academic and research purposes.

However, she did not provide a target for the decrease in the number of animals used in testing.

"The European Union (EU) has been advocating technologies as alternatives [to animal testing] for 30 years, and it took the EU more than 30 years to see a reduction in the overall number of animals used in testing ... replacing animal testing is a very challenging process," Chin said.

In terms of the current goal of TIP-ATAT, Chin said it is to improve regulations in Taiwan regarding alternatives to animal testing and introduce alternatives from foreign countries to Taiwan, so those accustomed to animal testing are aware of available alternatives.

(By Sunny Lai)

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