Created by on 05/01/2012

On April 24th, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife held a hearing to consider eight bills, including the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011 (GAPCSA). The intent of GAPCSA is to prohibit all invasive research on great apes, including chimpanzees. In his opening remarks, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the Senate EPW Committee, said that he could not support GAPCSA in its current form because the bill goes too far by eliminating research on chimpanzees. “An outright ban would be very shortsighted and may endanger public health,” he stated.

James M. Anderson, MD, PhD, Director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), provided testimony during the first panel. Dr. Anderson discussed NIH’s efforts to implement the recommendations in the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on the necessity of chimpanzees in research. He also updated the Subcommittee on the status of the working group charged with analyzing active NIH research using chimpanzees, advising on the size and placement of chimpanzee populations, and developing a review process for considering potential future chimpanzee research. Dr. Anderson anticipates that the working group will present its final report in early 2013 during an open session of the Council of Councils.  
In response to this information, Subcommittee Chair Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) stated his appreciation for NIH’s acceptance of the IOM’s recommendations. Noting that a complete ban on chimpanzee experimentation as proposed in GAPCSA conflicts with the findings of the IOM report, he asked Dr. Anderson to work with Congress to amend the legislation. Martin Wasserman, MD, JD, former Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, testified on the second panel in support of GAPCSA. Senator Cardin also invited Dr. Wasserman to provide input on efforts to amend the bill. 
In anticipation of the EPW hearing, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology met with many members of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee and sent letters to all Senators asking them not to support the legislation. A webcast of the entire hearing is available on the subcommittee’s website.