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New Working Group EVOGENERATE established within the Ecological Risk Assessment Global Advisory Group

During the meeting of the Ecological Risk Assessment Advisory Group (ERA AG) at the SETAC NA Long Beach Conference (14 November 2012), the establishment of a new working group was presented. The new working group is called "EVOlutionary and multi-GENERATional Effects of chemicals” (acronym: EVOGENERATE).

A possibly important problems in current ecotoxicity testing procedures or risk assessment approaches is that these do usually not consider effects beyond single generations of exposed organisms. Yet, under continuous multi-generational exposure offspring may show lower show lower (e.g. acclimation to metals) or higher sensitivity to chemicals than their parent(s). Furthermore, an offspring's sensitivity to chemicals and that of even later generations may be affected by their parents' (or grandparents') prior exposure, even long after exposure has ceased (=trans-generational and/or epigenetic effects). Finally, in a population context, (micro)-evolutionary mechanisms (such as selection, mutation, genetic drift, and gene flow may be induced or altered by chemicals over long exposure times. This would result in changes in genetic composition of populations with possible consequences such as genetic diversity loss, genetic adaptation, and costs of adaptation.

Although research activities in this area are currently increasing at a rapid pace (in part fueled by the rapid advancement of omics technologies), an important issue remains that most of this research is and has been mainly descriptive and not fit for implementation in regulatory chemicals assessment and management. The major aims of the EVOGENERATE working group are therefore to (i) assess the regulatory significance of evolutionary and multigenerational effects, (ii) raise awareness of such effects among academics, business and regulators by supporting tri-partite activities, and (iii) to develop and promote use of tools, methods and protocols to assess and predict evolutionary and multigenerational effects, not only in an academic but also in a regulatory context.

Current chairs of this working group are Karel De Schamphelaere (Ghent University, Belgium), Marie-Agnes Coutellec (INRA, France) and Carlos Barata (IDAEA-CSIC, Spain).

If you are interested in joining this working group and/or actively want to contribute to achieving our aims, please let us know via Karel.Deschamphelaere@UGent.be .

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