In November 2017 the European Union (EU) agreed to grant a 5 year licence for the use of glyphosate* within the EU. This came after 18 months of debate between the agrochemical industry, which wanted a 15-year renewal of the licence for the use of glyphosate within the EU, and individuals, NGOs and environmental organisations who wanted the substance banned. The European Commission and those Member States that voted in favour of renewal chose to ignore the European Parliament and the 1,320,517 European citizens who signed a petition to ban glyphosate, reform the EU pesticide** approval process, and set mandatory targets to reduce pesticide use in the EU.
The European Parliament then set up a Special Committee on the authorisation procedure for pesticides. The first recommendations to address the issue have now been made. Possibly the most important recommendation is the proposal that the public should be granted access to the research submitted in order to authorise a pesticide. Currently the data and information provided by the chemical companies (such as Bayer and Syngenta) is seen only by the authorisation body and is too often regarded by them as definitive. The new recommendation provides scientists and other specialists in the field a chance to analyse the data provided by manufacturers.
During this period of open access stakeholders will be able not only to comment on the findings, but also to provide additional existing data. This allows for all relevant information to be taken into account – environmental impact, health studies etc. – which previously the authorisers have not been able to do.
The Committee also recommended that post-market evaluation should be strengthened. This means follow-up research in real life use of the pesticide. It is hoped that they will launch an epidemiological study on the impact of pesticides on human health, for instance. Perhaps they will also look at the ‘cocktail effect’ of using a sequence of chemicals throughout the crops’ growing life. Normally each chemical is approved in isolation – which is not how farmers and growers use them. The Belgian Greens MEP, Bart Staes said:
“We ask for full transparency with regard to the studies used for the assessment. To make them more independent and based on scientific evidence, to avoid conflicts of interests, to fully test active substances, to thoroughly test pesticide products, including the cumulative effects, and for stronger risk management measures.”
The recommendations were adopted with 23 votes to 5 and 1 abstention. The full EU House voted on the report during the plenary session of 14-17th January 2019, with a resounding majority for adoption of the report (For: 526 (79%), Against: 66 (10%), Abstain: 72 (11%)).
*Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Round Up
**“Pesticide” is also used to describe herbicides, which includes glyphosate.
Article written by Mouse
See our article on local impact on ban here.