The move was approved by European Parliament political leaders in Strasbourg on Thursday.
The full Parliament will take the final decision on the proposal by the Conference of Presidents during its February plenary session.
The special committee is a response to concerns raised about the risk posed by the herbicide substance glyphosate. The herbicide had its marketing licence renewed by EU member states for five years in November last year.
The special committee is to assess the authorisation procedure for pesticides in the EU; potential failures in how substances are scientifically evaluated and approved; the role of the European Commission in renewing the glyphosate licence; possible conflicts of interest in the approval procedure; and the role of EU agencies, and whether they are adequately staffed and financed to fulfil their obligations.
The term of the special committee, which will have 30 members, is to be nine months from its first meeting. It will deliver a final report of its factual findings and recommendations, to be approved by Parliament.
It is expected to meet for the first time in March.
The move was welcomed by MEPs. EPP group member Angélique Delahaye said Parliament was “behaving responsibly” in setting up the committee, although she added, “I would like to note that the environment committee had the tools to look at this issue.”
She explained that the new pesticides committee would “help explain how authorisation procedures work at EU level and assess how reliable they are. This committee is a political response to the public’s questions.”
S&D group Vice-Chair Kathleen Van Brempt said, “The Monsanto scandal unveiled how the multinational company tried to influence the outcome of scientific reports so that the licence of the controversial pesticide would be renewed. This is unacceptable and we will get to the bottom of it.
“At a time when the EU is engaged in improving legislation on health safety and a sustainable environmental policy, we can’t afford a shadow of a doubt. We must find out whether the positive reports of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) on glyphosate were influenced by Monsanto.
“However, the scope will be broader than this specific case. We will demand a strong mandate to scrutinize the way in which various pesticides are authorised. Our aim is to improve the procedures and address citizens’ concerns, to increase transparency and assure that European Agencies can rely on independent scientific research.”
In a statement issued on Thursday, Ska Keller, Philippe Lamberts, co-Chairs of Parliament’s Greens/EFA group, said, “Through this committee, our group will seek to analyse the failings in the process that led to the renewal of the authorisation of glyphosate.”
It went on, “In particular, we want to look at the work of the European agencies (EFSA and ECHA) and the German agency Bfr. We want Europe’s agencies to be irreproachable in their assessment of potentially dangerous substances. The protection of public health and our environment must take precedence over any other consideration and requires total independence of scientific work."
In a resolution voted in October, Parliament stated that the release of the so-called ‘Monsanto Papers’, internal documents from the company which owns and produces Roundup, of which glyphosate is the main active substance, shed doubt on the credibility of some studies used in the EU evaluation on glyphosate safety.
The EU’s authorisation procedure, including the scientific evaluation of substances, should be based only on published, peer-reviewed and independent studies commissioned by competent public authorities, said MEPs.