Brussels, 19 April 2002
Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin has outlined measures to reduce animal testing under the Sixth Framework programme for research (FP6) in response to a written question from Irish Green MEP Nuala Ahern.
In a written question, Ms Ahern accused the Commission of ignoring its legal obligation under the Treaty protocol on animal welfare and 'the increasing concern expressed by the European Parliament and EU citizens about the slow rate of progress in developing non-animal alternatives to animal tests.'
The answer given by Mr Busquin on behalf of the Commission highlighted the inclusion of the development of new in vitro tests to replace animal experimentation under the FP6 thematic priority area 'Genomics and biotechnology for health.' The Commission's proposals for the specific programmes also include general statements on the respect of animal welfare, he said.
Mr Busquin said the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) will continue to validate animal tests and, along with the European chemicals bureau, the JRC and DG Environment, will continue to promote the acceptance of alternative methods.
The Commission's White Paper on a strategy for a future chemicals policy sets out the Commission's commitment to legislation to protect animals used for experiments and establishes an action to 'foster research on the development and validation of alternative methods' at Member State and Community levels.
'In view of the above, it appears that the subject raised by the honourable member is well covered in the specific programme's proposals. The Commission will continue the policy of reduction, refinement and replacement of animal tests,' Mr Busquin concluded.
In a separate development, the EU's Scientific advisory committee has defended research using animals as crucial in the battle against diseases such as malaria and AIDS. The committee said it is concerned about 'mounting opposition from pressure groups and some MEPs to tests using non-human primates.' It warns that EU scientists may have to rely on research conducted outside Europe, where they would be unable to control standards.