Commissioner hits out after rise in animal testing

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

An EU commissioner urged industry and academia to speed up the
development of alternatives to animal testing after figures
published yesterday revealed a marked increase in the use of
animals in cosmetics testing.

While the 2009 ban on animal testing of cosmetics ingredients is fast approaching, the number of animals used to test cosmetics increased 50 per cent between 2002 and 2005, according to research conducted by the European Commission. Although the total number of animals used remains relatively low at 5,371, the report stated: "This increase, attributed mainly to one old Member State, is worth noting in light of the legal requirement to phase out animal testing for cosmetics in the EU."​ Speaking yesterday at the European Partnership for Alterative Approaches to Animal Testing, the EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik criticized industry and academia for failing to commit sufficient resources. Potocnik called on companies to share information gathered from research and testing. "The sharing of animal and substance data and methods will bring gains in safety through validated methods, as well as efficiency,"​ said the commissioner. "The likely reductions in cost and creation of new alternatives will be commercially rewarding." ​ He also encouraged companies to communicate their requirements to scientists and support external research while creating links with their own in-house projects. His speech highlighted greater communication as a key area for improvement. So far only eight of the 30 methods validated by the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) have gained regulatory acceptance. He said the lack of communication between research organizations, such as ECVAM, and regulators was partly to blame. "If the needs of regulators for information are an obstacle, then we must engage more fully with them to identify and meet those needs,"​ he added. As for the academic world, he called for greater recognition of alternative testing as an academic discipline, noting that in the EU only four professorships exist in the domain. Many of Potocnik's views are shared by ECVAM head Thomas Hartung who spoke to in the summer. Hartung said that with more input from industry, the research ECVAM carries out could be better financed, and, likewise, information relating to animal testing and alternative methods could be shared more freely. "The extent and pace of industry contribution has been below our expectations, given the urgency of the problem. Much more could be done,"​ he said.

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