This entry is part of the Science and the European Election series, a collaboration between SciencePunk and the Lay Scientist blog to encourage public discussion of the science policies of the major parties standing at the forthcoming European elections.
In 2007, The REACH act came into force, addressing the potential harm to humans and the environment of all chemicals imported to and manufactured in the EU. Critics point out that this will require a significant increase in animal testing. How will you balance these concerns with the need to assess the safety of chemicals in our food and products?
Tim Worstall, UKIP:
REACH is a grossly expensive farce. It should of course be repealed: that would rather solve any concerns over increased animal testing.
Scott Redding, the Green Party:
When REACH was being debated, our party's leader, Caroline Lucas MEP,
backed more than 200 animal rights campaigners from around the South-East who called for the EU to ban animal tests as part of its ongoing review of chemicals legislation. Lucas proposed a series of amendments to the REACH Directive on chemical safety to replace all animal-based toxicity tests with humane alternatives. At the time, she said: "Replacing animal experiments with modern non-animal alternatives is not simply an animal welfare issue - it will improve the effectiveness of toxicity testing and benefit the protection of both human health and the environment too. Existing animal tests are expensive, unpopular unnecessary, not to mention cruel and even misleading." The EU, at the time of REACH, should have taken the opportunity to scrap requirements for chemicals to be tested on animals before commercial use. A report in 2005, by UK-based "Animal Defenders International" said REACH could create a surge of as many as 4 million extra animal experiments.
Euan Roddin, the Liberal Democrats:
I insisted in the REACH legislation that data must be shared to reduce the need for animal testing, and this approach was voted through. As far as animal testing is concerned we need to increase funding for the development of alternative research techniques where possible and also make sure that animal experiments which do take place are as non-invasive as possible and done across Europe under the highest welfare conditions, as in the UK.
Ann Rossiter, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (via the Labour Press Office):
The impact on human health and the environment of chemicals is of paramount importance. There are still gaps in the knowledge of how about 90% of the chemicals on the European market impact on human health and the environment. One of the priorities of REACH is to fill in these gaps. REACH emphasises the need to minimise animal testing and actively promotes the development and use of alternative test methods. The pressure from REACH has already led the EU to adopt new testing methods for skin sensitivity which will avoid using animals. However, we do recognise that some additional testing on animals will be needed to fill gaps in knowledge, but once these tests are complete they would not be repeated and data must be shared. Any proposals for testing on animals will be rigorously scrutinised to ensure they are absolutely necessary.
The long-term aim of REACH is that all testing on animals should be phased out where possible.
REACH is one of the largest, most expensive and most stringent pieces of legislation ever put together by the EU. As it impacts industry the world over, it's a firm example of the power that can be wielded when a group of states act together in unison. But it comes at a price - in this case, testing every chemical imported to or manufactured within the EU implies a great deal of animal testing. Is it a necessary evil? Setting aside UKIPs unique proposal, the Greens, Lib Dems and Labour all had approaches to limiting animal testing within the REACH framework. The Green Party could claim taking a bold stance on the issue of animal testing, and Euan Roddin an insightful action into reducing its use.
"Setting aside UKIPs unique proposal"
Well, as the only person who answered any of these questions who has actually had to register chemicals under REACH it really is an expensive farce. I'm going to have to pay them 70,000 euros just for the right to file my applications for example....
Tim Worstall - did you not file for free under the pre-registration rules? Once the chemical is preregistered you can be put in touch with anyone else who has preregistered the same product and split costs.
Can you see any positives from a having a regulated, EU-wide, compendium of chemicals, with freely available uses and toxicity data, with the hope of phasing out the carcinogens over time?
As Dr T said, Pre-registration was free. The website was a little clunky at first, but it did work, which considering the amount of applications it had to handle was quite an achievement.
Depending on the volumes of chemicals you are handling, that gives you another 5-10 years of breathing space, whilst you are sorting the details out, and if you join a consortium the costs will be shared equally.
Furthermore, if you produce a finished article, you don't need to register under REACH. So although we use a bunch of chemicals and make our own carbon fibre, we don't actually have to register for REACH.
OK, we're registering because our new owners don't understand REACH any more than the management do, but thats beside the point. Total time taken to deal with it for now will be on the order of a couple of man days.