Pesticides: greater transparency in the approval process?

A plenary vote on 6 December will decide whether the report will be adopted. [EPA-EFE/PATRICK SEEGER]

The system for approving pesticides has to show greater transparency, a special committee of the European Parliament has concluded. An article by EURACTIV France’s media partner, the Journal de l’environnement.

Having been re-approved for a period of five years in November 2017, glyphosate has been at the centre of a fierce scientific debate – mixing associations, politicians and health agencies – whose transparency has been called into question. Following this chaotic process, the European Parliament established a special committee to shed light on the process of approving pesticides.

After seven months of work, the two rapporteurs, Norbert Lins (European People’s Party) and Bart Staes (Greens/European Free Alliance) delivered their report on Thursday 20 September. They propose several approaches to improve the process, particularly with respect to transparency.

Publication of industrial studies

Specifically, all of the studies submitted by industry in the approval documentation will have to be made public and their findings will have to be presented in a usable form. This is to allow them to be reviewed by parties other than agencies.

The report also proposes that the same weight is given to academic studies, which are published and peer reviewed, as to those provided by industry. This is not currently the case, which often biases agencies’ conclusions towards judgements in the favour of products.

Sales of glyphosate sink to 13-year low in Germany

Sales of the world’s most commonly used weed killer glyphosate in Germany reached 3,800 tonnes in 2016 – the lowest level in 13 years, Spiegel Online reported, quoting governmental documents.

Rapporteur countries chosen by the Commission

Another proposal is that the European Commission should choose the member state rapporteur of the active substance, with it no longer being up to the industry to designate them. In the case of glyphosate, it was Germany and Slovakia who were responsible for assessing the active substance.

Reassessments, with a view to renewing approval, should be assigned to other member states.

The MEPs also advocate better post-approval monitoring in order to assess the doses to which the population and the environment are actually exposed, as well as the toxic effects arising from their use. This is a system called phytopharmacovigilance, which Anses (the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety) established in July 2015.

Further setback to banning glyphosate in France

At a vote on the agriculture and food law, French MPs again refused to enter the banning of glyphosate within the next three years into legislation. EURACTIV France reports.

Confirmatory data: unfair derogations

The report also calls on the European Commission to reduce its use of the confirmatory data procedure, which allows industries to place and maintain their products on the market, with the obligation of submitting additional data to the authorities.

“Complete dossiers are essential for active substance approvals… the derogation by confirmatory data procedure has led to certain plant protection products that would have otherwise been banned to remain on the market for an extended period of time”, the MEPs regretted.

The report will be discussed in committee on Thursday 27 September, before its possible adoption on 6 December.

Further Reading

Agroecology can feed Europe pesticide-free in 2050, new study finds

European agriculture can phase out pesticides, reduce its impacts on climate and biodiversity while ensuring food security for Europeans, French researchers Pierre-Marie Aubert and Xavier Poux  told a conference held in Paris on 13 September.   

Like nicotine: Bees get hooked on harmful pesticide, study shows

Bumblebees acquire a taste for food laced with a pesticide known to harm them, according to a study suggesting the chemicals pose an even greater threat to pollinators than previously thought.

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