Diclofenac in Europe – update. Where are we?

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(for background information on Diclofenac in Europe: see news from the 3th March 2014 >>)

 10 EU governments and the EU Commission have already received from national organisational a formal request to start a referral procedure to ban the drug in Europe

Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux has released the news in France – see here

14,000 people have signed the English petition  – see here

The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS, also known as the Bonn Convention) has written to the Spanish and Italian governments asking them to take some action

 The Italian company marketing the drug in Europe (FATRO) has been contacted and informed about the issue by the VCF. First reaction suggested some overture to discuss possible solutions, and VCF-BirdLife International are now preparing a document to submit to FATRO

Update on the campaign

The Vulture Conservation Foundation has been at the forefront of the campaign to ban diclofenac in Europe. Ever since we were alerted for the legal marketing of this drug in Italy and Spain in late 2013, the VCF has researched the situation, established the current state of play, and promoted the building of a coalition of like-minded organisations to fight together this threat (Birdlife International, SEO/BirdLife, RSPB and the IUCN Vulture Specialist Group).

Diclofenac is extremely lethal to vultures, and has caused a 99% decline in several vulture species in the Indian subcontinent. This veterinary drug has been now banned from 4 countries in South Asia, only to reappear legally in Europe. This is probably the most significant threat to Europe’s vultures – whose populations have been steadily recovering following considerable investment by the EU, national governments and organisations like the VCF.

There are alternatives readily available to vet diclofenac, so we must learn from the Indian example, and STOP this drug before it is too late for Europe’s vultures. The VCF wants to see a total ban on diclofenacin the EU.

Here is an update on the situation

-The VCF has submitted to the European Union, together with other organisations, a formal request for the EU to start areferral procedure for a withdrawal of the marketing authorization of diclofenac, under Article 35 of Directive 2001/82/EC, based on the risks for vulture populations in Europe. The VCF has led on the production of a series of technical documents detailing the risks and potential exposure to vultures, and informing on the known-science on diclofenac (see VCF´s website below for more details). If the referral procedure is started, the Commission will ask for a scientific opinion from the European Medicine Agency, before taking a final decision. Usually the Commission upholds the opinion of the EMA.

-This referral procedure can also be initiated by EU member states, and the VCF and BirdLife International have been working with national organisations in a number of countries so that they also formally ask their respective governments to push for this referral procedure – so far this request has been sent to 10 EU members governments:  Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, and Spain.

-A number of national and international conservation organisations have issued their own press releases on diclofenac, following the public launch of the campaign by the VCF and Birdlife International on the 3rd of March. You can see several examples here

 Hawk Conservancy Trust (here)

NABU (here)  

Liga Para a Proteção da Natureza (here)

Rewilding Europe (here  

Ligue Pour la Protection des Oiseaux (here)

 – The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS, also known as the Bonn Convention) has written to the Spanish and Italian governments asking them to take some action

-The issue has received some attention in the European and world press. Here are some examples of newspaper articles published in mainstream or the specialist national and international media

The Guardian (UK)  here

El País (Spain)  here

ABC (Spain) here

Publico (Portugal) here

Vet Magazine (Germany)  here

Dnevnik (Bulgaria) here

Farmer (Bulgaria) here

La Buvette des Alpages (France) here

WildLife Extra  here

In the meantime, a couple of petitions have also been initiated, one  in English and one  in Spanish. The English petition is addressed to the two EU Commissioners, and has already 14,000 signatures!

-Two scientific letters have also been submitted by vulture researchers and scientists to  the prestigious journals Conservation Biology (by Spanish researchers) and Science (by a number of VCF-affiliated scientists and other researchers)

– Quite relevant, the company marketing the drug in Spain has put out – and then withdrew – an announcement with a recommendation that the vet diclofenac should not be administered to products that are susceptible to enter the vulture food chain. Considering the extensive character of many livestock explorations in Spain, and also the way that many vulture feeding stations work, this is impossible to control – but at least they recognise now the risk to vultures. This should have been adequately evaluated during the risk assessment!VCF and BirdLife International have in the meantime formally contacted the company marketing the drugs in Europe, informed them of the issue, and have been requested to present a proposal, which is now under preparation.

 Stay tuned for further updates!

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