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Farm Bill Includes Worrisome Amendments

Two amendments that may adversely affect aspects of research with nonhuman animals are included in both the House and Senate versions of a five-year, $286 billion bill that reauthorizes programs on food safety and production.

By Patricia Kobor

Two amendments that may adversely affect aspects of research with nonhuman animals are included in both the House and Senate versions of a five-year, $286 billion bill that reauthorizes programs on food safety and production. H.R. 2419 (commonly called “The Farm Bill”) passed the Senate on December 14, 2007 with a strong margin of 79-14, and passed the House in July with a 231-191 vote.

Section 11316 in the House version would prohibit the use in sales contexts of live animals to demonstrate medical devices, as well as of previously recorded videos of demonstrations on live animals. This prohibition would deprive veterinarians, physicians, and researchers of opportunities to learn new surgical techniques and to evaluate and expand the applicability of these new devices.

The Animal Welfare Association (AWA) already requires prior review and approval of all demonstrations that involve animals by animal care and use committees associated with the relevant research organizations and companies. These committees’ approvals are contingent on the determination that there is no alternative to live and/or recorded animal demonstrations and that the individuals conducting the research or demonstrations have the required skills and training.

Section 11317 of the House bill would prohibit Class “B” dealer sales of non-purpose bred dogs and cats and make it more difficult for pounds and shelters to provide unwanted animals for research. The practical effect of this is to deny the use of older, genetically diverse dogs and cats needed for certain pre-clinical and translational research on a host of medical conditions including heart disease, stroke, Type-2 diabetes, and digestive diseases.

The AWA already requires that Class “B” animal dealers be licensed and undergo regular unannounced inspections of their operations by the USDA. The AWA also requires the dealers to obtain these animals legally and to treat them humanely.

The Senate version of the Class “B” dealers amendment differs slightly from that of the House. There is an added section phasing out Class B dealers over a period of five years:

"(g) Limitation.--The Secretary shall phase out, by the date that is 5 years after the date of enactment of this subsection, the use of random source dogs and cats from class B dealers in accordance with a schedule established by the Secretary."

This section provides the basis for the language to be conferenced, since both versions are not identical, and also provides a tacit admission that ‘random source’ dogs and cats are being used productively in research now.

The House and Senate are not in session for much of January, and a conference committee to iron out the considerable differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill has not yet been scheduled. However, the committees will push for a conference as soon as they return from recess. President Bush has not threatened a veto but has raised concerns that the bill contains new taxes and does not limit some subsidies to wealthier farmers.

APA has long partnered with the National Association for Biomedical Research, a group that defends the use of nonhuman animals in research, and sent letters opposing these amendments to the House and Senate. The joint letter from Steve Breckler, Executive Director for Science, and Steve Dworkin, 2007 Chair of the Committee on Animal Research and Ethics, can be viewed from the APA website.

Watch for the next edition of the Science Policy Insider News [now APA Science Policy News] for the latest updates and opportunities to make your concerns heard about these amendments.