Brussels, 27 April 2009
Global efforts to promote alternatives to testing on animals receive a significant boost today through the signing of a cooperation agreement by international bodies, including the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC), tasked with the validation of alternative test methods.
Today, a cooperation agreement that should give new impetus to the worldwide availability of scientifically proven alternatives to animal test methods has been signed by the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM), which is part of the Commission's Joint Research Centre, together with its equivalent in the US (ICCVAM), Japan (JACVAM) and Canada's Environmental Health Science and Research Bureau.
European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik, emphasized the positive impacts of scientific international cooperation: "Reducing animal testing, both out of concern for animal welfare and ethical issues, and protecting consumer safety are two major objectives of this international agreement", adding "I expect that European, American, Japanese and Canadian scientists working together will more rapidly identify, scientifically sound alternative testing methods".
The agreement establishes enhanced international cooperation and coordination on the scientific validation and evaluation of in-vitro toxicity testing methods. Strengthened collaboration among the signatories will ensure that alternative methods are reproducible, based on sound science and able to accurately identify health hazards. This, in turn, should facilitate test methods that are widely accepted by regulatory bodies in the EU, US, Japan, Canada and internationally by the OECD, for example.
It is expected that, as a result of the agreement, testing methods that undergo scientific validation will be more credible and more rapidly applied by the testing community.
The reinforced collaboration among the signatories will formalise the way they already work together in test method evaluation, validation studies, independent scientific peer review and recommendations from regulatory authorities. The organisations will also work together to develop harmonised recommendations on regulatory issues and develop peer-review processing mechanisms.
Some 12 million animals are used in experiments throughout the Union each year for safety testing and biomedical research. The EU's goal is to reduce the number of animals involved and to refine the testing methods refined so as to cause as little harm to the animals as possible.
The European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) is part of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre and was created in 1992 in response to Directive 86/609/EEC on the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes. The Directive requires that the Commission and the Member States actively support the development, validation and acceptance of methods which could reduce, refine or replace the use of laboratory animals, stating that "an experiment shall not be performed if another scientifically satisfactory method of obtaining the result sought, not entailing the use of an animal, is reasonably and practicably available".
ECVAM coordinates the validation of alternative test methods at a European level and acts as a focal point for the exchange of information on the development of alternative test methods.
For more information:
ECVAM website: http://ecvam.jrc.it/
See also JRC website 'Tracking System for Alternative test methods Review Validation and Approval (TSAR)': http://ihcp.jrc.ec.europa.eu/tsar
MEMO/09/200 (questions and answers)
 ICCVAM = Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods
 JACVAM = Japanese Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods, hosted by the National Institute of Health Sciences, part of Japan's Ministry of Health, Education and Welfare