Scientists use more GM animals in experiments

The number of genetically modified animals used last year in laboratory experiments increased by 14 per cent compared with 1998, according to figures released yesterday by the Home Office.

The number of genetically modified animals used last year in laboratory experiments increased by 14 per cent compared with 1998, according to figures released yesterday by the Home Office.

It was the biggest increase in any of the research categories for animal experiments and was largely the result of investigations into the function of genes thought to be shared between mice and humans.

The number of animals used in research in 1999 fell by 24,000 to a total of 2.57 million. With the exception of 1997, this was the lowest number since 1955, the Home Office said.

Shelley Simmons, a spokeswoman for the National Anti-vivisection Society, called for more freedom of information on licence applications for animal experiments so that scientists can be challenged on possible alternatives.

"The negligible decrease in the number of animal experiments simply masks the disturbing fact that there is a steep increase in the number of genetically modified animals used," Ms Simmons said.

The vast majority of animals, about 86 per cent, were mice, rats and other rodents.

About 71 per cent of the experiments involved genetically normal animals and 3 per cent used animals that suffered from naturally occurring genetic defects.

The largest single user of animals for scientific research is the pharmaceutical industry, which uses them for testing new drugs.

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