European Commission promises more transparency in assessment of glyphosate
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European Commission promises more transparency in assessment of glyphosate

In response to an European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides, the Commission announced today that it would present a legislative proposal in 2018 to further increase the transparency and quality of studies used in the scientific assessment of substances. In addition, and “following a thorough scientific assessment of all available data on glyphosate concluding that there is no link between glyphosate and cancer in humans”, and a positive vote by Member States’ representatives on 27 November 2017, the Commission also adopted a renewal of the approval of glyphosate for 5 years.

The Commission’s final proposal for a 5 year renewal took also into account the latest non-binding Resolutions adopted by the European Parliament.

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is an EU measure which entered into force in 2012 and aims at being an instrument of participatory democracy. The ECI allows European citizens to influence EU legislation by offering a link to political decision-making.

What is required is that at least one million citizens from at least seven member states sign a petition to call on the European Commission to propose new EU legislation in any of the areas of EU’s competences.

“It’s great that well over a million EU citizens have invested their time to engage directly on an issue that matters,” said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans. “The Commission has listened and will now act.”

He added that he is a strong supporter of the right of citizens to engage in this manner and that he is pressing the Parliament and Council to make speedy progress on the Commission’s proposals to make it easier for European Citizens’ Initiatives to be successful in the future.

“However, it is equally important that Member States assume their responsibility when it comes to the authorisation of pesticides in their own markets,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. “They must also ensure that pesticides are used sustainably and in full compliance with label requirements.” 

The Commission’s reply to the three requests of the European Citizen Initiative

1. “Ban glyphosate-based herbicides, exposure to which has been linked to cancer in humans, and has led to ecosystems degradation”:

Reply: Member States are responsible for the authorisation, use and/or ban of glyphosate-based products on their territories. In the EU, only substances for which there is objective evidence of safe use are approved.

2. “Ensure that the scientific evaluation of pesticides for EU regulatory approval is based only on published studies, which are commissioned by competent public authorities instead of the pesticide industry”:

Reply: The Commission fully agrees that transparency in scientific assessments and decision-making is vital to ensuring trust in the food safety regulatory system. Maintaining and improving a strong, transparent and independent scientific assessment is crucial.

The Commission will propose to change the current rules to make sure that scientific studies are publicly available. Citizens must be able to understand how such far-reaching decisions to authorise or ban certain substances are taken. Political responsibility and greater transparency are two sides of the same coin.  

3. “Set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use, with a view to achieving a pesticide-free future”:

Reply: EU policy is already directed towards reducing dependency on pesticides and achieving a pesticide-free future as requested by the European Citizens’ Initiative. The Commission will strive to ensure that Member States comply with their obligations under the Sustainable Use Directive and reduce dependency on pesticides. Member States have also been invited to establish more precise and measureable targets in their National Action Plans.

In addition, in order to monitor trends in risk reduction from pesticide use at EU level, the Commission will establish harmonised risk indicators on top of the existing national risk indicators.

The Brussels Times