November 3, 2015
On October 26th, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a controversial report claiming that there is a linkage between the consumption of red and processed meat and certain types of cancers. The report places processed meats into issued Category 1, which asserts that there is sufficient evidence to state that process meats causes cancer in humans. The report puts red meat in Category 2A, which signifies the red meat is a probable carcinogen to humans. According to IARC, this classification is based on limited evidence from epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer as well as strong mechanistic evidence. IARC has published a Q&A on the report, as well as a press release. A summary of the report can be found on The Lancet (free registration required).
The report drew sharp criticism from the meat industry and commodity organizations. The North American Meat Institute responded with a statement that "the vote by an International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monograph panel classifying red and processed meat as cancer "hazards" defies both common sense and numerous studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer and many more studies showing the many health benefits of balanced diets that include meat."
At the same time, the IARC report served as a catalyst for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to file a petition with USDA calling for a halt of distributing hot dogs and other processed meats to children through the National School Lunch Program.
On October 29th, IARC released a clarifying statement in response to the questions and criticisms raised by the report. The statement includes, in part, that, "IARC’s review confirms the recommendation in WHO’s 2002 "Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases" report, which advised people to moderate consumption of preserved meat to reduce the risk of cancer. The latest IARC review does not ask people to stop eating processed meats but indicates that reducing consumption of these products can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer."
During the last week of October, leaders of the House and Senate struck a deal with the Obama Administration to establish government funding levels for the next two years and suspend the debt limit until March 2017. Funding for FY 2016 will be increased by $50 billion and FY 2017 will receive an additional $30 billion. Increases will be split evenly between defense and non-defense accounts.
The bipartisan deal was one of House Speaker John Boehner’s last actions before his retirement at the end of the month. While top line spending is now established, Congress must still complete the appropriations process for FY 2016. It is expected that Congress will craft an omnibus appropriations bill before the current continuing resolution expires on December 11th.
On October 7-8, more than 100 scientists, administrators and representatives for commodity groups and funding agencies, met in Washington, D.C. to discuss recent advances and jointly explore new opportunities for genotype-to-phenotype research using domesticated animal species. FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel, along with numerous scientific society members, participated in the meeting. The workshop was organized by the Functional Annotation of Animal Genomes (FAANG) consortium, which seeks to map the functional elements in the genomes of domesticated animals. The National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Agriculture, Illumina Inc. and Iowa State University sponsored the workshop.
The event included presentations from leaders in the genomics field — John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington; Christine Wells, University of Glasgow; and Paul Flicek, European Bioinformatics Institute — who described the latest in genome function analysis in the human and mouse species. A recurring theme of these presentations was that the domesticated animal community is well-positioned to exploit the knowledge gained in human and rodent projects through adapting technologies, data analysis and in comparative analyses across vertebrate and invertebrate species.
The workshop’s sessions are available on-line at www.faang.org. Further information on the FAANG consortium, including its recent white paper published in Genome Biology, also are online. Reports on pilot FAANG projects in the U.S. and France included information on the collection and initial analysis of selected tissues and the development of plans for bioinformatic pipelines to collect, share and analyze data. Breakout sessions were held to plan specific approaches to data creation and analysis, with an emphasis on collaboration and sharing.
Funding agencies from several countries also presented their perspective on FAANG. Representatives of the NSF, USDA, the Canadian Genome Enterprise, the National Institutes of Health, the Research Councils of the United Kingdom, as well as the European Commission presented information on relevant research opportunities for FAANG projects. Several representatives also suggested mechanisms to create new opportunities for research funding, including international research consortia that would organize the research enterprise, and potential joint funding opportunities in which funding agencies would partner to sponsor new competitive grant programs.
The Animal Health National Program Leaders for USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have issued an invitation to stakeholders to assist with identifying research priorities for the next National Program research cycle as well as assess the performance of the Animal Health National Program 103 over the last five years. ARS is encouraging those interested in animal health research programs to fill in the survey found at the following link: http://126.96.36.199/surveys/2015animalhealth/survey.htm The survey will help ARS know the impact of its current programs and the animal health diseases most important as they create the NP 103 Five Year Action Plan.