Following the European Union's objectives to totally eliminate all testing of cosmetic ingredients on animals, the European cosmetics association, Colipa, says that an industry-wide partnership has been forged with the objective to reduce and eventually replace all laboratory animal testing.
The agreement, which also involves the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, animal health and crop protection industries, was made during a conference held in Brussels and hosted by the European Commissioners for research and enterprise.
It stipulates that industry will be obliged to partner with the EU to identify new alternative approaches to animal testing, as well as the collaboration with all those concerned in the validation process for new tests in an effort to speed up the process of acceptance and validation.
At the annual Colipa annual general assembly, held in Budapest in May, cosmetic and toiletry industry representatives voiced particular concern over the validation process, highlighting that it was a bottleneck in the progress being made to stop animal testing.
Under the leadership of the Commission the partnership aims to develop and Action Plan to implement practically aspects of the declaration, with annual reports on its progress.
Using the 3Rs - the principal developed by William Russell and Rex Burch to foster Refinement, Reduction and Replacement of animal testing back in 1959 - the plan will be used to speed up the development of new approaches to testing.
Susanne Zänker of AISE - the soaps, detergents and maintenance products association, said, "We regard this partnership as an important departure point - the dawn of a new era of collaboration to fulfil the common goal of developing sound alternatives and ultimately working towards the gradual elimination of animal testing.
"We particularly welcome the strong leadership role being taken by the European Commission, which will be critical to the successful management of the different projects undertaken as part of the Action Programme."
The partnership aims to increase the cross-fertilization of ideas both within specific industries and amongst the different industries with a variety of associations and industry bodies.
"We are committed to the eventual elimination of animal testing on the components of our products and we have been pioneers in the search for alternative methods for many years," said Bertil Heerink from Colipa.
"More and complex scientific challenges are ahead of us all. We have to find ways to create effective synergy. Therefore, we see the partnership as an opportunity to make further progress," Heerink added.
All members of the partnership have agreed to the development and publication of the Action Plan by the first quarter of 2006.
According to recent statistics, 10.7 million animals are used annually for tests in the EU. More than 50 per cent are used in research, human medicine, dentistry and fundamental biological studies (covered by the current legislation).
Sixteen per cent are used in production and quality control of products and devices in human and veterinary medicine and dentistry and 10 per cent for toxicology and other safety evaluation.