Congratulations, Dr. McGuinness, on your appointment as executive director of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
ECHA plays a central role in the implementation of the European Union’s legislation on chemicals, and biocidal products. Moreover, the agency’s approach to this mandate will become ever more significant under the ambitious European Green Deal commitments and Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS).
In our changing geopolitical, social, economic and technological landscape, it is vital to conceive of ECHA’s core mandates of ensuring safety, promoting replacement of animal testing, and enhancing competitiveness and innovation as connected rather than competing, and guided by a unifying vision and robust strategy to achieve the EU’s laudable aims under the CSS.
It is vital to conceive of ECHA’s core mandates of ensuring safety, promoting replacement of animal testing, and enhancing competitiveness and innovation as connected rather than competing.
The European Parliament has observed that “the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have put in place strategies to actively reduce and replace animal testing, but the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) still has to put in place a reduction and replacement strategy”. Examples of ambitious targets for phasing out of animal tests and phasing in of new approach methods (NAMs) and next-generation risk assessment (NGRA) approaches in the chemical space have been articulated by Canada, South Korea, and the United States. They have also been requested by an overwhelming majority of MEPs and more than 1.4 million respondents to a recent European Citizens Initiative.
Now is the time for ECHA to develop an ambitious strategy, structures, systems and culture that remove barriers to the preferential use and acceptance of suitable NAM and NGRA approaches, consistent with EU law. As an ECHA-accredited stakeholder organization, Humane Society International/Europe (HSI) would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the agency and interested parties on future-focused planning, capacity-building, and other solutions to support ECHA in fulfilling its legal obligations to protect humans and the environment while ensuring that animal testing is truly performed only as last resort.