Endocrine disruptors: A guilty definition

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.com PLC.

"Endocrine disruptors lead to increased cancer, genital malformations, early puberty but also decreased fertility." [Shutterstock]

French socialist MEPs are defiant against the Commission’s “weak, superficial and incomplete” definition of endocrine disruptors, blaming it on French Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot, and calling on the European Parliament to reject it on Wednesday 4 October.

MEPs Guillaume Balas, Edouard Martin, Isabelle Thomas, Christine Revault d’Allonnes Bonnefoy, Eric Andrieu, Sylvie Guillaume, Marc Tarabella, Emmanuel Maurel and Virginie Roziere are signatories to the below opinion piece.

We have just obtained a first victory against endocrine disruptors in the European Parliament despite the opinion of the Council of European ministers which follow lobbies’ line.

Indeed, the Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) has just rejected the Commission and Council’s definition of endocrine disruptors. The final vote will take place on Wednesday 4 October in Strasbourg. It is now up to MEPs to act!

First, a criticism on process: we blame the European Commission for having decided on its own, beyond its prerogatives. The European Parliament, the only democratic institution in the EU, was consulted only at the end.

Concerning the substance of the definition, the European Commission was sentenced by the Court of Justice of the European Communities for her inaction. And now, the Commission’s proposal is really worrying us. What are we talking about?

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that create significant adverse effects on organisms, lead to increased cancer, genital malformations, early puberty but also decreased fertility. Some studies establish a link between a decrease in IQ and these chemical substances.

What do the European Commission and the Council propose? Member states agreed on a definition of disruptors on 4 July, after seven unsuccessful meetings. Sweden and Denmark voted against, France changed the vote, switching in favour of the definition.

The French government has a clear responsibility in this case since it swayed the vote in favour of the precautionary principle. The French government has followed the interest of the chemistry and agriculture lobbies, for whom a clear definition would have cause costs and penal responsibility.

This definition that we have been calling for so long is incomplete, superficial and incomplete.

Weak: the use of the word “proven” to determine the level of scientific confidence required, excludes automatically products “presumed” as endocrine disruptors.

Superficial: in supreme hypocrisy, derogations are excluding many pesticides from the definition. These herbicide and insecticide products affect our hormonal system and fall out of the scope of the definition.

Incomplete: the text is limited to certain plant protection products (pesticides) without taking into account the disruptors present in the solvents, the products of maintenance, the cosmetics, the plastics…

How can we be satisfied with such lightness on such a grave matter?

This is the responsibility of French Minister of the Environment Nicolas Hulot, who by his words and his function is responsible for this decision.

We now find ourselves confronted with a classic political paradox when it comes to new protective regulations. Either a majority of the European Parliament validates this substandard definition, or a majority opposes to it in the name of the importance of implications and intellectual honesty.

We are clearly advocating for the second option, calling on all MEPs to vote on Wednesday in Strasbourg against this guilty definition. We call on the President of the European Commission to make endocrine disruptors one of the great European causes in 2018 in order to find an ambitious and protective definition.

In no case will we resign ourselves to blackmail on health to satisfy private interests against the general interest. There is an urgency to act, we are all concerned.