EU: battle over pesticide safety escalates

The European Commission has announced it is prolonging the licence of glyphosate by five years. But in reaction to the massive protests the Commission also promised to present a legislative proposal in 2018 covering transparency of studies used in the assessment of pesticides and the governance of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

“We are glad to see that the European Commission has finally realised it needs to review its approach to transparency. As ever though, the details will be crucial “, comments Greens/EFA food safety spokesperson Bart Staes. In the access to documents case the Greens/ EFA took against EFSA. It is now for the European Court of Justice to take a decision on where to draw the line between the right of access to information, particularly environmental information, and the protection of the commercial interests of private companies. It is a shame that the Commission has only signalled its vague intentions to progress on this issue once the pressure got so high that they essentially had no other option, says Bart Staes.

“We need to make sure that EFSA is equipped to deliver transparent and thorough assessments. That’s one of the reasons that the Greens/EFA group is calling for a special committee in the European Parliament to investigate the failings revealed by the glyphosate process. I call on those groups not already fully behind the establishment of the committee to give it their support so that the parliament can have a strong voice on the future of EFSA and transparency in the EU.”

Greens/EFA president Philippe Lamberts adds: “If the European Commission won’t take the demands of over one million EU citizens seriously, then we will have to continue the fight using other means. We have strong arguments for referring the Commission’s decision to the European Court of Justice. The Commission has chosen to ignore the views of citizens, of the parliament, and of respected scientists, and has refused to pause to allow further investigation. We will work to build the necessary majority of MEPs to challenge this reckless decision.”

Background: Only 5 years and greater transparency

On 24 February 2016, the European Commission proposed a 15 year renewal of the licence for glyphosate. Almost two years later, the EU licence for glyphosate has been renewed for 5 years, not 15. The public awareness has risen massively, thanks to a huge mobilisation by determined civil society.

The Commission has today announced it will present proposals for greater transparency of the documents used for assessments on pesticides. However, within the current legal frameworks on access to environmental information and on access to EU documents, much more transparency should have already been granted. Earlier this year, 4 Green MEPs already filed a case at the ECJ demanding public access to the studies used by EFSA in the assessment of glyphosate. Monsanto, Cheminova and the German government joined EFSA in the Court to defend the commercial confidentiality of those studies. According to press reports, the German government may have withdrawn its participation in the case, but today the registry of the European Court of Justice had not yet received any notice of this.

Last week, the Greens/EFA group announced that it will attempt to get a majority in the EP to go to the ECJ to annul the Commission decision. MEPs are also calling for the establishment of a special committee to investigate the handling of the assessment process for pesticides.


19 12 2017

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