A US federal government panel says that companies and government agencies can test the toxicity of pesticides or other substances on human, and potentially even children, as long as they meet high ethical and scientific standards. The decision by the National Research Council is the latest development in an on-again, off-again controversy over human tests. The head of the panel, James Childress, of the Institute for Practical Ethics at the University of Virginia, said that there was a public benefit in using the best available science.
In the tests, subjects are given levels of chemicals which will probably not harm them. The results will show regulators how much of a particular pesticide can be applied to crops and how close to harvest time.
Critics savaged the decision. “We thought that these issues were resolved 50 years ago after the Nuremberg trials, but the chemical industry continues its campaign to make it acceptable to use human guinea pigs to maximise [its] profits,” says Erik Olson, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. The response of the pesticide industry is that human tests are needed to ensure that regulations for exposure levels are not set at overly restrictive levels.
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