Growing concern has been mounting among citizens of the EU on the use of toxic pesticides and their effect on people and the environment. This led to a European Citizens’ Initiative requesting that the European Commission address these concerns by means of a relevant proposal with the intent of a ban on glyphosate based herbicides and ensuring that the scientific evaluation of pesticides for EU regulatory approval is based only on published studies, commissioned by competent public authorities as opposed to the pesticide industry, and setting mandatory reduction targets across the EU for the use of pesticides aimed at ultimately achieving a pesticide-free future.
In its Communication of the 12 December 2017, the Commission committed both to a legislative proposal to enhance the transparency, quality and independence of scientific assessments of substances , such as public access to raw data, as well as future amendments to the legislation aimed at strengthening the governance of the conduct of relevant studies.
A first step was achieved through the reduction of the period of approval of glyphosate to 5 years as opposed to the standard 15 years approval period for active substances, this as a means of alleviating the citizens’ expressed worry that this may be linked to human cancer and a degradation to ecosystems. This has been followed by a proposal issued on the 11 April 2018, aimed at boosting trust in scientific studies on food safety and more specifically by providing guarantees of reliability, objectivity and independence of the studies used by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in risk assessments. Furthermore, the proposal reflects the Commission’s commitment to Better Regulation updating the Commission’s Fitness Check and the General Food Law dating as far back as 2002.
The main elements in the proposal are public access to safety related information submitted by industry during risk assessment; a Common European Register of commissioned studies aimed at ensuring that no relevant information is withheld; a mechanism whereby requests for additional studies can be made; consultation with stakeholders and the general public on studies submitted by industry; increased member state involvement in the EFSA’s governance structure and scientific panels; and the strengthening of risk communication to citizens.
Having been submitted to the European Parliament and Council, the Commission has indicated adoption by mid 2019.
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Article prepared by Dr. Ylenia Micallef Grimaud
About the Author: Dr Ylenia Micallef Grimaud as EU Affairs Advisory Partner, will be heading and coordinating the EU Affairs Unit within the newly set up Diplomatique | Expert. This aspires to be the primary source in Malta for research and advice to keep its clients them informed of trends, scenarios and developments in a number of areas and fields both in Malta and within the Med, within a global context. The aim is to provide our clients compelling objective and no hidden agendas research reports focused on the key issues one can face today and also what’s on the horizon.