JOINT MEETING OF ACAF AND ACNFP:
1 December 1999
DraftMinutes of the Joint Meeting of ACNFP and ACAF:
1 December 1999, Mary Sumner House, London
Professor J Bainbridge - Chair
Dr P Dale
Dr M Gasson
Professor I Rowland
Mrs E Russell
Dr N Simmons
Professor H F Woods
Dr J Bell - MAFF Assessor
Mrs S Hattersley - JFSSG/DH Secretary
Mr N Tomlinson - JFSSG/MAFF Secretary
Mr A Wotherspoon - Secretariat (JFSSG/MAFF)
Mr K Woodfine - Secretariat (JFSSG/MAFF)
Miss T Boshier - Secretariat (JFSSG/MAFF) - Minutes
Professor P Thomas - (Chair)
Dr I Brown
Mr J Cheetham
Dr A Chesson
Mrs G Davies
Mr P Foxcroft
Dr J Heritage
Mrs F Hodgson
Mr R Moore
Mr A Peddie
Dr H Raine
Dr D Rice
Professor I Shaw
Dr M Stringer
Dr R Burt - JFSSG/MAFF Assessor
Mr D Renshaw - JFSSG/DH Assessor
Professor C McMurray - DANI
Mr B Knock - Secretariat (JFSSG/MAFF)
Mrs K Dell - Secretariat (JFSSG/MAFF)
Dr R Smith - JFSSG/MAFF
Dr P Burrows - DETR (ACRE Secretary)
Mr R Vaz - National Food Administration, Sweden
1. Introductory Remarks
1.1 Mr R Vaz was welcomed as an observer from the National Food
Administration of Sweden.
1.2 It had been agreed that Professor Bainbridge, the ACNFP Chairman,
would chair the first joint meeting of ACNFP and ACAF. She gave a brief introduction to
the history of the ACNFP and explained the way in which it operates. She emphasised in
particular the ACNFPs commitment to greater transparency and the procedures that
were being developed to achieve this.
1.3 The Chairman went on to suggest that while there were a number of
issues that were distinct to each committee, there were others which were of relevance to
both, such as the size of sample required to obtain statistically valid data and the role
of animal/toxicological studies in safety assessment, and where it would be important to
explore the possibility of taking a common approach.
1.4 The ACAF Chairman was invited to make some introductory remarks on
behalf of ACAF. He explained the background to the remit of his committee and expressed
the wish to learn as much as possible from the ACNFP's experience in dealing with the GM
applications. He agreed that in areas of common interest the two committees should work as
closely together as possible.
2. Approaches to Assessing the Safety of GM Materials for Use as Human
Food or Animal Feed
2.1 This paper formed the main item for discussion at the meeting. It
gave a detailed account of the ACNFP's approach to GM assessments and described the EC
guidelines which exist for bioproteins used in animal feed, the only area of animal feed
for which a formal safety assessment was required.
2.2 The paper suggested that, while the type of materials used in
animal feed and the level of exposure may differ from those for human food, in principle
the approach to assessing the safety of human food appeared to be equally valid for animal
feed. This was based on the concept of substantial equivalence with the need for
particular studies (including toxicological work) being decided on a case-by-case basis.
2.3 The paper went on to invite the Committees to discuss the system of
safety assessment for GM foods, the ACNFP's experiences in the area, and the applicability
of the approach to the consideration of GM feed.
2.4 Members first looked at the relevance of the concept of substantial
equivalence with respect to animal feed assessments. They recognised that it had been the
practice within the feed industry to assess feed materials from non-GM crop varieties for
some time. This focusses on the effect that any differences from existing crops might have
on the ability of target animals to thrive. Where there was little difference, minimal or
no testing was necessary. In other cases, feeding trials were carried out.
2.5 It was pointed out that the present emphasis for such trials was on
nutritional performance rather than safety, although the animals are monitored for their
general health status. These trials were conducted on a different basis to those
undertaken in classical toxicology tests in that little, if any, pathology was carried
2.6 In the case of novel feed materials, non-novel counterparts were
almost always available as most new crops were variants of existing crops. Consideration
needed to be given however to the type of physiological system in the animal and its
influence on degradability of the feed e.g. feeding trials carried out with monogastrics
would not be directly applicable to ruminants. Such factors highlighted the need to assess
each product on a case-by-case basis.
2.7 The EC guidelines on novel additives and bioproteins in feed were
examined. These indicated the types of information and a list of studies that should be
provided in support of new products, as well as specific guidance on target animal
studies. Where GM technology is used, common procedures for assessment of potential risks
have evolved which differ very little in principle to those adopted for the assessment of
food. These concentrate on three aspects:
- Molecular biology of product/DNA insert etc
- Potential transfer to the environment
- Nature of expression products (i.e. of a gene expressed in an alternative host)
investigated through toxicological studies.
2.8 In relation to food safety, it was recognised that the starting
point of the assessment by each of the Committees is different. ACNFP is concerned with
the safety of (a range of types of) novel foods as consumed whereas ACAF will examine the
implications for the animal and their products from the consumption of novel feeds.
2.9 In view of the inherent difficulties in running meaningful animal
toxicological studies, the need to have a clear scientific justification for carrying out
animal testing was stressed as an important consideration. Tests should be performed to
provide answers to specific questions and to confirm or refute particular expectations.
However, it was recognised that, as with conventionally bred plants, animal studies cannot
be expected to, and will not provide, all the answers. Their main function in respect of
animal feed would be to continue to be able to test for nutritional adequacy.
2.10 Members agreed that the major issue facing them was that of the
unpredictable, inadvertent changes that might occur in modified plants (and indeed newly
bred varieties of non-GM plants) and the extent of the testing that can be performed to
address these. They were aware that it was not possible to ensure the absolute safety of
any product, be it GM or non-GM. It is a multi-faceted problem for which endless data
could be collected. However, it is the interpretation of the data and its implications
that is the key element in any rigorous safety assessment.
2.11 In conclusion it was agreed that each application for a novel food
or feed needed to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. It was clear however, that the
concept of substantial equivalence is and would be very important to both Committees. Its
application to date had proved an important tool in food safety assessment but the new
generation of products would create new challenges. New developments in methodology, as
recently reviewed by the ACNFP, will be important for the future. The two Committees
agreed to continue to consult on common issues as these arise.
3. Specification for Research Project on the fate of GM Material Fed to
3.1 This paper provided a draft specification for a proposed research
project investigating the fate of transgenic material in chickens. Broilers present an
ideal medium for a study such as this because of their size and relatively short
production cycle. It is not a safety study on the GM material involved, which has already
been fully assessed. As highlighted in a recent Royal Society report, evidence to date
indicates that little (if any) DNA survives processing and passage through an animal's
digestive tract and any that does, does not end up in meat, milk or other animal products.
3.2 The results of the project will be presented to the Committees for
their consideration and therefore members were invited to comment on the proposal before
the project starts.
3.3 The Committees agreed that this was a useful piece of research but
that attention should be paid to the feeding regime with respect to the relevance of the
data obtained. However, it was recognised that some atypical feeding would be necessary
and was acceptable since the purpose was to investigate whether and to what extent plant
genetic material may be incorporated into mammalian cells. Also the investigation would
involve searching for what is very likely to be a rare event and some specific addition of
DNA to samples (positive control) would be required to augment the levels present.
3.4 Some potential complications were highlighted, such as problems
with digestion and the possible need to spike the feed in order to overcome any issues
with the sensitivity of the proposed analysis. The need for proper controls was also
stressed. It was agreed that the proposal would be reviewed in the light of the members'
comments. Both Committees would be interested in how the project progresses and in
receiving and discussing the results.
4. Future Liaison between the Committees
4.1 It was agreed that the Committees would arrange to meet as the need
for discussion on issues of common interest arose.
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