Tuesday, June 8, 2010

EU Takes Steps to Reduce Animal Experimentation

Two new steps have been taken in Europe to reduce the number of animals used in scientific testing.

In the first, the Council of the European Commission adopted what is called its "first-reading position" on a draft directive for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. Under the provisions of the directive, member states would be required to pass legislation that ensures (among other things):

- experiments with animals are replaced, wherever possible, by an alternative method that is scientifically satisfactory,

- the number of animals used in projects is reduced to a minimum without compromising the quality of the results, and

- the degree of pain and suffering caused to animals is limited to the minimum.

In a second move, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) issued a "practical guide" on how to avoid unnecessary testing on animals in support of REACH registrations. ECHA anticipates that there will be between 25,000 and 75,000 registrations before the November 30, 2010 deadline. The vast majority of these will not require additional animal testing, and in fact, any animal testing specified in Annexes IX and X of REACH are required to be proposed for ECHA review only at this time. In addition, many companies are working together in consortia to create data packages that all companies can share, thus reducing all kinds of testing. The practical guide gives specific steps that companies can take to fill data gaps with non-animal data, for example QSARs, read-across, in vitro studies, the use of categories, and weight-of-evidence when literature data are available.

Lessons learned under the REACH program will likely be transferred to the new US chemical control law currently under development.

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