Select Committee on European Communities Second Report - Written Evidence

Letter from the National Office of Animal Health Limited

  1. NOAH represents the Companies of the UK which Research, Licence, Manufacture and distribute animal medicines in the UK. Our member companies supply 96 per cent of all the animal medicines licensed for sale in the UK. Included among our members are all the major research based international animal medicine companies.

  2. Following our telephone conversation on 18 May, I write to record NOAH's potential interest in the above inquiry. Although NOAH does not have within its remit the genetically modified crops or animals which will form the major focus of this inquiry, aspects of Biotechnology can occur in the production of Animal medicines which are used for the prevention and treatment of farm animals. Such uses are already highly regulated by EU law, notably Directive 81/851 as amended, and are generally regarded as uncontroversial and beneficial. NOAH and its members wish that their interest should be noted, and requests that we are advised and invited to give evidence should the inquiry be extended into these areas.

  3. The principal ways in which Biotechnology can be applied to the development and production of animal medicines are:


  4. With minimal fuss a number of "Biotech" vaccines have already been introduced to the market, most notably the first successful vaccine against Aujesky's disease in pigs. The opportunities for gene technology in this area are very great—both to provide vaccines for diseases resistant to conventional vaccine technology, and longer-term, to provide replacements for existing chemical therapies. It is already forecast, for example, that Biotechnology could enable the development of vaccines to replace chemical wormers and even to protect sheep from scab. The potential benefits in terms of convenience, operator and environmental safety are enormous.

More efficient production of medicines

  5. It is already the case that many traditional antibiotics are produced using cultures where the parent organisms have been genetically enhanced to provide higher production levels and less waste. The resulting antibiotic is no different but the costs are contained.

  BST provides another example—whatever one's views on the product, the fact is that biotechnology provided the ability to manufacture a chemical compound which could not be manufactured by conventional chemistry. Human insulin is perhaps a less controversial example enabling necessary medicine to be produced cheaply in large quantities, without the risks inherent in extracting the product from animal (or human) cadavers.

  Biotechnology can also be employed to improve production of medicine ingredients, such as glucose which is produced using enzymes developed by Biotechnology.

New Medicines

  6. With the concerns over potential resistance to existing antibiotics, genome technology is already providing the prospect of a new generation of antibiotics specifically targeted to by-pass the resistance mechanisms of pathogens. 77777While the initial benefits will be for human medicine, longer term the techniques will also be applied to animal diseases. In the meantime success in counter developing such products to resistance in human disease will undoubtedly reduce the pressure on necessary antibiotic use in agriculture.


  7. Although such products are not strictly regarded as "medicines", better, more precise and hence more effective treatment of disease depends on correct diagnosis. Furthermore control of residues in food, cheaply and easily, can be assisted at farm and manufacturing level by the availability of simple and accurate testing systems.

  Biotechnology is already being used to develop testing "kits" which will enable the more discerning use of medicines and the checking of produce.

Mr Roger R Cook


19 May 1998

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999