September 10, 2019 / 2:27 PM / 5 months ago

U.S. EPA chief to reduce agency-funded animal testing

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee hearing on the FY2020 EPA Budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Tuesday he was signing a memo to reduce agency-funded animal testing, vowing to almost completely end the practice by 2035.

Wheeler also said he was awarding $4.25 million to five research universities to advance research and development of alternative test methods for evaluating safety of chemicals “that will minimize, and hopefully eliminate, the need for animal testing.” The plan calls on cutting mammal testing by 30% by 2025.

A handful of U.S. agencies conduct animal testing, including the Federal Drug Administration for vaccines and drugs, and Agriculture Department for pesticides. The Transportation Department and National Toxicology Program also conduct such tests.

The news was welcomed by animal rights advocates like PETA and the Humane Society, which had urged agencies to shift to non-animal testing.

“PETA is celebrating the EPA’s decision to protect animals certainly - but also humans and the environment - by switching from cruel and scientifically flawed animal tests in favor of modern, non animal testing methods,” said Amy Clippinger, director of PETA’s regulatory testing program.

But some environmental groups said animal testing was necessary for identifying toxic chemicals and ensuring they do not harm the public.

“EPA is eliminating tools that lay the groundwork for protecting the public from dangers like chlorpyrifos, formaldehyde and PFAS,” said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientists at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and David Shepardson; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Richard Chang

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