European Parliament calls Commission to order over endocrine disruptors

The European Parliament in Strasbourg . [European Parliament/Flickr]

MEPs have castigated the European Commission over the delay to the definition of endocrine disruptors and demanded swift action. Initially due for December 2013, the definition has fallen two and a half years behind schedule. EURACTIV France reports.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Wednesday (8 June) calling for the Commission to take immediate action on the definition of endocrine (hormone) disruptors.

In a rare display of political unity, members from almost all the institution’s political groups came together to tell the Commission they would not tollerate any further delays.

Severe delay

The executive was supposed to publish its scientific criteria for the identification of chemical substances that affect the human endocrine system by December 2013 at the latest.

Many MEPs have been vocal in their criticism of the Commission, and its inaction even led to prosecution by the Court of Justice of the EU in December 2015, after a complaint lodged by the Swedish government.

Sweden wins case against Commission on endocrine disruptors

The General Court of the European Union on Wednesday (16 December) backed Sweden, saying that the European Commission breached EU law by failing to publish a definition for hormone-affecting chemicals or ‘endocrine disrupters’.

The resolution adopted on Wednesday was initially presented jointly by the Socialists and Democrats group (S&D), the liberals (ALDE), the Greens, the radical left (GUE/NGL) and the Eurosceptics (EFDD). But after some negotiating, it also gained the support of the Parliament’s biggest political formation, the centre-right EPP group.

Concessions over legal action

“All the political groups that initiated the resolution agreed not to include a reference to legal action in case the Commission fails to define endocrine disruptors,” said Gilles Pargneaux, a French Socialist MEP.

Before the negotiation process, the text had foreseen that the Parliament would file a complaint to the Court of Justice of the EU in the case of further delays.

This intervention comes rather late in the endocrine disruptors saga, as Brussels has already committed to publishing the definition criteria by the end of June. And according to several MEPs, this time the executive plans to respect its deadline.

Commission may offer defining criteria on hormone disruptors by June

After a delay of more than two years, the criteria defining hormone disruptors could be presented at the meeting of the College of European Commissioners on 15 June, Le Monde reported on Friday (20 May). EURACTIV’s partner Journal de l’Environnement reports.

The Parliament’s non-binding resolution also took note of “the Commission’s political commitment to propose scientific criteria for the determination of endocrine-disrupting properties before the summer”.

“Under pressure from the European Parliament, and following a recent guilty verdict by the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Commission has finally committed to publishing the defining criteria for endocrine disruptors next week,” said Angélique Delahaye, a French Republican MEP (EPP group).

Defining criteria

The scientific criteria defining endocrine disruptors to be presented by the College of Commissioners next week will allow the EU to work towards regulating or even banning their use in certain circumstances.

But the European Commission’s years of inaction on the subject have led some to fear that the criteria may place greater importance on the economic issues than on public health.

Minimal impact?

The resolution also recalled that “the specification of scientific criteria can only be carried out in an objective manner on the basis of scientific data related to the endocrine system, independently of any other consideration”.

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The question of whether or not the notion of potency is integrated into the executive’s text should give a clue as to its general tone. Industry bodies are pushing for potency to be taken into account (the strength of a hormone disruptor), but this could greatly weaken and reduce the scope of the criteria.

“France and Italy have announced that they would take the Commission to court if it introduced this notion of a threshold without defining what it should be,” said Michèle Rivasi, a French Green MEP.

“We want an assessment of danger, not risk: either it is a disruptor or it is not,” she added.

The European Chemical Industry (CEFIC), said, “We take note of the resolution of the European Parliament calling for the EU Commission to come with the final endocrine disruptor criteria as soon as possible. The Commission has already publicly committed to adopt a proposal for criteria identifying endocrine disruptors on June 15. We are eager to see the proposals, which we trust will be based on consideration of all the relevant scientific factors.”

>> Read: Setting the Right Criteria to Identify Endocrine Disruptors

The European Commission was supposed to define test criteria for otential endocrine disruptors by December 2013. These chemical substances are present in a large number of everyday products: foods, cleaning products, food containers, etc.

But the initial deadline was missed, and still no official definition has been reached. Without a definition of endocrine disruptors, it is impossible to legislate on the subject.

The Commission has promised to publish this definition by summer this year.

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