NGOs are warning Italy that it should not extend a grace period and ensure that pesticides containing glyphosate do not contain the toxic co-formulant POE-tallowamine.
On 29 June 2016, the European Commission decided to extend the licence of weed-killer glyphosate for another 18 months until the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki issues its own scientific assessment of the substance.
With the support of member states, the Commission also set some conditions on the approval of glyphosate. One of them was for the member states to ensure that plant protection products (PPP) containing glyphosate do not contain the co-formulant POE-tallowamine.
According to the European Commission, member states should adjust their national legislation to make sure that pesticides containing glyphosate do not contain POE-tallowamine.
For the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the co-formulant POE-tallowamine is extremely toxic and a danger to public health.
Grace period is unlawful
The Safe Food Advocacy Europe (SAFE) organisation together with the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe and its Italian branch last week sent a formal notice to the Italian Ministry of Health demanding the withdrawal of authorisation of glyphosate and POE tallowamine based pesticides.
The public health NGOs claim that Rome is circumnavigating the grace period with a November 2016 Decree and consider “doubtful” that an extension of authorisations on a member state level is possible when there are concerns for public health.
Floriana Cimmarusti, SAFE’s Secretary General, told euractiv.com that the sale of pesticides based on glyphosate and polyethoxylated tallowamine should be immediately terminated.
“EFSA has repeatedly stated that they are toxic for humans. Moreover, SAFE is critical of the decree signed by the Italian Ministry of Health on 26 November 2016, which grants a further grace period for the commercialisation of these products,” Cimmarusti emphasised.
She, also, added that the extension of the grace period was unlawful and contrary to superior EU norms as the latter forbid in principle extensions of six months when there is a concern for public health.
Member states decide on grace periods
Contacted by EURACTIV, a Commission spokesperson stressed that according to the information the executive received from Italy, the country’s authorities withdrew the authorisations for glyphosate-based PPPs containing the co-formulant POE-tallowamine on 22 August 2016 (the date of entry into force of the regulation which amended the approval conditions of glyphosate), with a grace period of 6 months, i.e. until 22 February 2017.
“The Implementing Regulation providing for the ban of POE-tallowamine in glyphosate-based PPP does not define specific grace periods,” the EU spokesperson emphasised.
“Therefore, the decision to grant (or not) a grace period following the withdrawal of a PPP authorisation and to define the length of that grace period, is under the responsibility of member states, in accordance with the general provisions of the PPP Regulation (Regulation 1107/2009),” the Commission official added.
Cimmarusti and its Counsel Michela Velardo told EURACTIV that Italy’s deadline for the allocation on the market and use of stocks was 22 of May 2017 while the 22 February 2017 deadline indicated by the Commission refers only to a specific group of companies.
“Considering the former extension already granted, these kinds of products will be allowed on the market for six months in total, despite their toxicity,” they said.
The two Italians also expressed doubts about the Commission’s interpretation of Regulation 1107/2009.
“It is doubtful that this decision of the Italian Ministry complies with superior provisions of European law, which in principle ban extensions of six months if there is a concern for public health. This is definitely the case for these products already assessed as toxic by EFSA,” they said.
“Moreover, the precautionary principle, the wording of Article 46 of Regulation 1107/2009 as well as the objectives of the regulation itself seem to forbid any kind of extension. Such a decision does not even comply with the national legal framework namely with Article 32 of the Italian Constitution, which qualifies public health as a fundamental right.”
A meeting is scheduled in Rome on 16 February to discuss the issue with the Italian government.