EFTBA Members united against retrospective access to DNA samples for performance profiling purpose
On May 10th 2015, during their Annual General Meeting, the Members of the European Federation of Thoroughbred Breeders’ Associations (EFTBA) unanimously adopted a resolution to advise all thoroughbred registration authorities of their total opposition to any retrospective access by those involved in DNA performance profiling, to DNA samples stored by these authorities. These samples were collected solely for identification and pedigree verification. Retrospective access for DNA performance profiling by commercial companies was never envisaged at the inception of these DNA stores and no consent for this usage was ever sought from or given by the breeding industry.
Retrospective access to these stores for this purpose has the potential to have immediate and far-reaching consequences for the industry’s long standing system of investment and valuation based on pedigree, conformation and performance. This is not the first time that retrospective access has been sought by a DNA performance profiling company. EFTBA discussed their request for retrospective access for another purpose at its 2014 AGM and then as now, unanimously rejected it. Acceding to these requests from any one company will inevitably lead to similar demands from its commercial rivals, and there will always be anxieties that samples released for one purpose may be used for others.
Concerns extend beyond valuation and the investments that have been made by so many breeders, the majority of whom, as EFTBA and its members associations have repeatedly documented, own small numbers of mares. They also include an awareness of the potential for the release from stores to result in sudden reduced genetic diversity, through adverse impact on the stallion and mare population.
The EFTBA Veterinary Advisory Committee have emphasised to the Board, that DNA performance profiles relate to the presence of the genes they describe and do not describe whether or not these genes have been activated. This Committee have also emphasised that this technology relates to the genotype and that this is just a portion of the phenotype that represents the horse that we see. This committee has warned that the industry has at present, no mechanism to protect it from the potential for DNA performance profiling to result in inadvertent selection for undesirable traits as has been well described in other livestock industries. The Committee reported that creation of a monitoring to deal with this inadvertent consequence is important.
EFTBA is requesting all of the relevant industry authorities including the International Stud Book Committee, National Stud Book authorities and registration authorities, the International Thoroughbred Breeders Federation, SITA and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities to urgently adopt a ban on retrospective access to Thoroughbred DNA stores to protect the future of the worldwide breeding and racing Industry.
EFTBA recognises that DNA performance profiling has become a part of the assessment system of the thoroughbred industry but it insists that its impact must be gradual, monitored and controlled. This can only be achieved by prospective evolution and not by retrospective access. EFTBA will be seeking the assistance of the International Thoroughbred Breeders Federation in furthering these aims, at the ITBF Congress this September.