Approval of pesticides: EC must follow precautionary principle, not vested interests of industry
Following a critical report by the European Ombudsman on the approval process for pesticides in the EU, GUE/NGL MEPs are condemning the European Commission for placing the vested interests of industry over health and environmental concerns.
The Ombudsman's report identifies serious problems with the European Commission's procedures for approving dangerous chemicals for sale on the market. These include the Confirmatory Data Procedure in which chemicals are approved as 'safe' before all the necessary data to support the decision has been received, and lack of controls over the implementation of risk mitigation measures for the use of these substances in member states.
Risk mitigation measures can include ensuring that specific chemicals are not used in combination with one another, or that specific pesticides are not used just before rain, for example, as means to prevent more harmful effects of these chemicals such as toxic chemical combinations or spreading into waterways.
The Ombudsman's report adds weight to concerns that have been raised over these issues during the ongoing negotiations on an amending regulation (1107/2009) which covers the control of pesticides and their residues.
GUE/NGL MEPs are echoing the Ombudsman's concerns, and calling on the Coordinators of the Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) to identify what actions could be undertaken within the limits of the Parliament's competences, concerning both the Confirmatory Data Procedure and the implementation of risk mitigation measures, as soon as possible.
The issue is now even more urgent, as the Commission is currently preparing to ask member states to start the authorisation renewal process for the dangerous herbicide, 'glyphosate' (the active ingredient in Monsanto's 'Roundup' and many other pesticides), which has been identified by the World Health Organisation as probably carcinogenic to humans. This process could lead to glyphosate being approved for another 15 years.
GUE/NGL MEPs will also raise objections, by all means possible, to any renewal of the authorisation for glyphosate.
German MEP, Stefan Eck, remarks: “I congratulate the Ombudsman for her strong commitment and position on this file and I fully share PAN's concerns*. I urge the Commission to implement the Ombudsman's proposals to improve the pesticide approval system.”
“We must remain vigilant. The Confirmatory Data Procedure should be the exception, not the rule. No pesticide substance should be placed on the market without the necessary assessment reports and if the European Commission approves a pesticide which requires risk mitigation measures, the correct implementation of these measures should be duly supervised.
“The precautionary principle should always prevail over the quick authorisation of a pesticide,” Eck adds.
Dutch MEP, Anja Hazekamp, also comments: “The Ombudsman's report indicates that Europe has allowed new pesticides to go on the market for years without sufficient evidence that these are safe for public health, animals and the environment. Among the authorised pesticides are substances which are highly toxic to fish, mammals and bees. This once again demonstrates that the European Commission considers industry interests to be more important than protecting citizens, animals and the environment.”
“It is regrettable that the Ombudsman's report is not binding, as it seems that the European Commission will simply ignore her advice. A paper published on Wednesday indicates that the Commission is planning to re-authorise one of the most harmful and widely used pesticides, glyphosate, for another 15 years. So the Commission is definitely not getting on the right track, despite the Ombudsman's report and a lot of public pressure.
“The Dutch Party for the Animals will make an official objection, if the Commission proceeds with this new long-term authorisation of glyphosate,” Hazekamp concludes.
* The report by the European Ombudsman into the approval of pesticides in Europe was undertaken following a complaint by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), a network of NGOs who alleged the Commission' s way of approving substances for pesticides was, in some cases, unsafe and/or not in accordance with the relevant legislation.
GUE/NGL Press Contact:
Nikki Sullings +32 22 83 27 60 / +32 483 03 55 75