Parliament’s pesticide committee stance receives mixed reactions

Written by Martin Banks on 30 January 2019 in News
News

MEPs have given a mixed reaction to Parliament’s decision to adopt the recommendations of a special committee set up to look into the EU approval procedure of pesticides.

Photo Credit: Press Association


Deputies on the committee say that the public should be granted access to the studies used in the procedure to authorise a pesticide, including all supporting data and information relating to the applications.

This is one of several proposals put forward by the special committee on the EU’s authorisation procedure for pesticides, which has been examining the issue for the past year. The committee also called for the decision to re-licence the weed killer, glyphosate, to be re-assessed.

The committee’s report has been adopted with 526 votes to 66.


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Some members say the recommendations will boost transparency in the process, but UK Conservative Agriculture spokeswoman Anthea McIntyre said the report included “discredited” assertions simply "to provide a platform for campaigning MEPs ahead of the European elections in May."

Nine years after the adoption of the Plant Protection Products Regulation and following the controversy about the renewal of glyphosate, Parliament set up a special committee on the EU’s authorisation procedure for pesticides.

The committee, in its concluding report, urges the European Commission to propose measures to protect vulnerable groups and put an end to pesticides being used over long distances in the vicinity of schools, childcare facilities, playing fields, hospitals, maternity hospitals and care homes.

MEPs note that concerns have been raised about the right of applicants to choose a particular Member State to report on the approval of an active substance to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This practice, though, is seen as lacking in transparency and could entail a conflict of interests.

“On such an important issue, scientific research is the be-all and end-all. Interests or ideologies have no place here. This decision must not be dependent on daily politics or emotions” Norbert Lins MEP

Members called on the Commission to allocate the authorisation renewal to a different Member State.

AUTHORISATION SHORTCOMINGS

Reaction to the outcome of the vote was swift, with Parliament’s co-rapporteur on the file, German EPP member Norbert Lins, saying, "It is crucial that the approval procedure remains science-based. On such an important issue, scientific research is the be-all and end-all. Interests or ideologies have no place here. This decision must not be dependent on daily politics or emotions.”

Belgian Greens member Bart Staes agreed, saying, "The Special Committee has brought to light serious shortcomings in the authorisation of pesticides. The PEST report and the EP is now demanding big improvements.”

“The overwhelming support for reform of the pesticide authorisation procedure through more transparency and independent research is a wake-up call for EU governments and the European Commission, as well as a way forward to restore citizens’ trust in EU decision-making."

Eric Andrieu, a French Socialist, who chaired the special committee, also welcomed the outcome, telling this website, “Recent revelations about plagiarism confirm that the work of our investigative committee was necessary. We urge the European Commission to review the pesticide authorisation system in Europe and to immediately re-evaluate the authorisation of glyphosate.”

‘POLITICALLY MOTIVATED’

However, UK Tory MEPs branded the special committee’s recommendations as “politically motivated.”

They claim it means that “many powers to licence products will be removed from Member States and centralised in Brussels, despite hearing from experts that the present system works well.”

“The EU approval process for plant protection products is one of the most stringent systems in the world, yet to read the committee's report you really wouldn't think so” Anthea McIntyre MEP

McIntyre said the report included “discredited” assertions simply "to provide a platform for campaigning MEPs ahead of the European elections in May."

She said, "The EU approval process for plant protection products is one of the most stringent systems in the world, yet to read the committee's report you really wouldn't think so.”

“It has been prepared in a very selective manner with many expert contributions being intentionally disregarded. The report is very disappointing and reflects poorly on our institution. We should be supporting a fact-based approach to policy making.”

McIntyre believes the current system could be improved by increasing transparency, supporting new farming techniques to reduce pesticide use and encouraging the development of novel substances which would make older, more persistent chemicals obsolete.

"The Commission, EU regulatory agencies, Member State authorities and Greenpeace all gave evidence to the committee and said it was not flaws in the legislation that needed to be addressed. Instead they argued that improvements were required in its implementation.”

“The committee has a duty to reflect the expert testimony, even when this may be inconvenient for some political groups and campaigners. But it has singularly failed to do so" McIntyre added.

The report has no legal authority but is likely to inform future decision making on the approval and authorisation process for pesticides.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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