The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been actively pressuring government agencies in the United States, Europe, and Canada to greatly increase the amount of testing that they require for new and existing chemicals and pesticides. The result of the WWFs lobbying has been the establishment of what threaten to be the largest animal-testing programs of all time.
The WWF was the driving force in pressuring the U.S. Congress to legislate the screening of chemicals for endocrine (hormone) disrupting effects and has subsequently been heavily involved in establishing the framework for the Environmental Protection Agencys (EPA) massive chemical-testing program now under development. As its Web site points out: WWF invested substantial resources in the EPAs Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee, which agreed upon a set of tests to form the foundation for the screening and testing program. What the WWF neglects to mention, however, is that 10 of the 15 recommended screens and tests are animal-poisoning studies, some of which kill hundreds or thousands of animals at a time. According to scientific estimates, the WWF-backed endocrine testing program will kill up to 1.2 million animals for every 1,000 chemicals tested, and with the EPA currently proposing to retest many tens of thousands of chemicals under this program, the toll in animal suffering and death could be staggering. The WWF is also pressuring government agencies in Europe to embark on a similar animal-testing program.
Because of pressure from environmental groups like the WWF, the EPA is forging ahead with the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program without taking the time to carefully consider the logistics and practical uses of the testing plan. There are already large amounts of data about the toxicity and even the hormone-disrupting effects of many of the chemicals that the EPA proposes to test in Phase I. Many of the animal tests that the EPA proposes are redundant, poorly defined, and inadequately validated. Even if the EPA could successfully perform the proposed testing and interpret the results—both of which are unlikely—it has no plan for how this information would actually be used to assess or mitigate risks to humans or the environment.
Unfortunately, the endocrine disruptor issue is not an isolated example. The WWF has been a major force in pressuring the European Union to amend its Chemicals Policy to require companies to test and retest as many as 30,000 new and existing chemicals. The British Institute for Environmental Health has estimated that this process could kill upwards of 45 million animals if the standard battery of animal-poisoning tests is used. The WWFs U.S. and Canadian offices are also calling for more testing of pesticides, despite the fact that more than 9,000 animals are already killed for every pesticide on the market. In particular, the WWF has called for certain pesticides to be tested for developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) using a test that kills upwards of 1,300 animals each time it is conducted. This test has been heavily criticized by scientists, including the EPAs own Scientific Advisory Panel, which concluded that the exposure of rat fetus/pups was not shown to be equivalent to human fetus/infant during equivalent stages of brain development and that the current form of the DNT guideline is not a sensitive indicator of toxicity to the offspring. In other words, the WWF is calling for thousands of animals to be killed in a test that scientists admit is not relevant to humans!
In its defense, the WWF says that in the absence of effective, validated alternatives, WWF believes that limited animal testing is needed for the long-term protection of wildlife and people throughout the world. However, there is nothing limited about the massive amount of animal testing that the WWF is endorsing. Dr. Joshua Lederberg, Nobel Laureate in Medicine, pointed out in 1981: It is simply not possible with all the animals in the world to go through chemicals in the blind way we have at the present time, and reach credible conclusions about the hazards to human health. Now more than 20 years later, millions of animals are still dying in agonizing chemical toxicity tests, and we are no closer to getting dangerous chemicals out of the environment. The WWF has put considerable effort into encouraging the adoption of regulations in Europe that would curb the production of toxic chemicals and people's exposure to them. But in the U.S., the WWF has made little effort to develop or support regulations that would limit exposure. In fact, despite killing hundreds of thousands of animals in painful chemical toxicity tests, the EPA has not banned a single toxic industrial chemical in more than a decade! Instead of focusing its efforts on killing more animals in a misguided attempt to protect the environment, the WWF should focus on ways to develop protective regulations in the U.S.