Below is the Press release that the ITBF/EFTBA issued following the meeting on DNA profiling for performance in thoroughbreds, in Paris, France on 'Arc weekend.
Representatives of the International Thoroughbred Breeders Federation (ITBF), the European Federation of Thoroughbred Breeders Associations (EFTBA) together with members of the Technical Advisory Committee of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (TAC of the IFHA), The International Studbook Committee and the Asian Racing Conference and invited commercial providers of the newly emerging DNA Performance profiling services and Universities gathered in round table format to discuss horse industry policy and best practice by providers.
The meeting commenced with a series of presentations by the commercial companies and Universities on the past present and future of their work. Their databanks contain very large bodies of information. They can provide a service for their clients at auction sales – with results within four hours using portable equipment by one company or overnight by another and alternatively through the postal system by a third. Each company developed their tests independently of one another and each may examine similar or different performance related genetic markers and smaller or larger numbers of markers, which may provide conflicting information regarding the genetic potential for a particular athletic or physical characteristic using a different test system, based on either hair or blood samples. They differ in price. These services can be provided in combination with other indices (which can include photographic assessments of conformation, biomechanics, measures of cardiac parameters and the spleen, fat free mass and muscle architecture) by some and not others. One company provides primary focus on optimal racing distance. All conceded that their input was only a part of the overall assessment of any individual. Individual training methods, geographical location and pedigree are also influential.
The technology is more effective when larger groups are evaluated rather than individuals, although it has been used to try to identify future Golden Slipper or Derby winners. Studying groups may not be as important when considering optimal racing distances.
This rapidly expanding technology has the potential to have far reaching consequences. Elimination of a significant number of staying horses would impact on the international pattern of racing. The international pattern of racing will influence the type of horse desired. A university study developing a method to objectively evaluate the genetic potential of any horse for racing resilience/durability through the combination of performance data and DNA testing is close to completion. Two stallion farms in Australia have commenced advertising results suggesting the optimal distance service results of their stallions on their websites this southern hemisphere season and more are following.
Pedigree registration authorities have more stringent sample identification requirements (for their DNA testing for studbook registration) than commercial companies have for DNA performance profiling.
These presentations were followed by extensive discussions which included whether the Thoroughbred industry needed a policy in regard to these developments, safeguarding the industry, protection from inadvertent selection for inherited defects and the establishment of best practice guidelines.
It was agreed that service providers must obtain written consent from the owners or their representatives. A proposal that the information provided to these companies clients should also be provided to the owners of horses was not carried – pending clarification of the legal implications in differing jurisdictions. It was agreed that this issue needs to be revisited when legal advice has been obtained. It was agreed that this forum needs to continue to include all those in attendance and those who were unable to be there and that it will do so through a“list-serve” format.
The meeting was sponsored by the EFTBA, the ITBF,the ITBA and TBA (Australia) and was hosted by France Galop, who were gratefully acknowledged by all.