Avian Toxicity

Regulatory authorities require test data to predict the potential effects of chemical exposure on birds in their natural habitat. While tests, including acute oral, dietary, and reproduction, are often conducted on birds, scientists have raised concerns about whether they provide relevant environmental protection to all avian species and have called for a transition to more predictive approaches.

While working to demonstrate confidence in in silico and in vitro approaches, scientists are taking immediate steps to end tests that have been shown not to add value to the regulatory decision-making process. For example, a retrospective review led by experts from PETA Science Consortium International e.V. and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessed the use of avian oral and dietary tests in risk management. The review examined 119 pesticides registered over 20 years and found that the avian dietary test is generally not used for risk management decision-making. This review was used to help support the EPA’s 2020 policy providing guidance to waive the avian dietary test, freeing up resources for more relevant efforts. There is still a need to end the use of the avian dietary test globally: it is still required for conventional pesticide active ingredients by regulatory authorities in China and India but not by the European Commission or Japan.

Furthermore, the European Commission and the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee in India require the use of a single species for conventional pesticide active ingredients for the avian reproduction test, while the EPA and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency require two test species. The Science Consortium is collaborating with the EPA to conduct a retrospective review examining the use of two species in avian reproduction tests risk management. This review will examine hundreds of pesticide active ingredients to analyse trends in species differences and identify what information is, or is not, being used in regulatory decision-making.

These collaborations on retrospective reviews can help end the requirement for tests that have been shown not to contribute useful information for regulatory decision-making, thereby freeing up resources to be better spent on more predictive tools. For example, initiatives such as SeqAPASS (Sequence alignment to predict across-species susceptibility) aim to modernise ecological testing using predictive computational methods that have the potential to reduce testing on terrestrial animals while improving ecological protection. SeqAPASS was the focus of a Science Consortium co-organised webinar, “Data-Driven Solutions to Reducing Animal Use in Ecotoxicity.”