Many citizens want to know what is the European Parliament’s position on the renewal of the authorisation of the use of glyphosate.
On November 2015, the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) declared that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential according to Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008. In light of these conclusions, the European Commission has to decide about the renewal of glyphosate in the EU list of approved active substances. However, as these conclusions are not shared in previous studies published on this substance, many citizens turned to the European Parliament asking for its intervention in order for the authorisation renewal of glyphosate to be refused.
Glyphosate is a systemic herbicide which has been used since 1974 in agriculture but also in forestry, urban and garden applications. Glyphosate and/or its residues have been detected in water, soil, food and drinks and non-comestible goods, as well as in the human body, and the impact of its most common co-formulants on human health are regularly monitored.
The European Commission authorises active substances at EU level with reference to Regulation 1107/2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, through implementing regulations.
On 13 April 2016, the Parliament adopted a non-legislative resolution on renewing the approval of the active substance glyphosate, in which it considered that the Commission’s draft implementing regulation fails to ensure a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment, fails to apply the precautionary principle, and exceeds the implementing powers provided for in Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009. The Parliament also called on the Commission to submit a new draft implementing regulation in order to better address the sustainable use of herbicides containing glyphosate, and to renew the EU market approval for glyphosate for another 7 years only instead of 15 as originally proposed, and for professional uses only.
Further information is available in the EP press release of 13 April 2016, as well as in the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety’s press release of 22 March 2016.
The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (Phytopharmaceuticals Section), composed by national experts of all Member States and presided by a European Commission representative, should have voted subsequently to adopt or reject the Commission proposal by qualified majority.
However, as no such majority was reached, it was up to the Commission to decide on a limited extension of the approval of glyphosate. At the same time, the Commission presented to the Member States three recommendations for adoption as soon as possible. More details are available in the European Commission’s fact sheet ‘FAQ: Glyphosate’.
European Citizens’ Initiative
The European Commission has decided to register a European Citizens Initiative (ECI) inviting the Commission “to propose to Member States a ban on glyphosate, to reform the pesticide approval procedure, and to set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use”.
The initiative was formally registered on 25 January 2017. The registration starts a one-year process of collection of signatures in support of the proposed ECI by its organisers. Should the ECI receive one million statements of support within one year, from at least seven different Member States, the Commission will have to react within three months. The Commission can decide either to follow the request or not follow the request and in both instances would be required to explain its reasoning.
The use of this herbicide has been the subject of many parliamentary questions, especially with regard the possible impact on human health.
For instance, with regard to the contamination of German beer with glyphosate (question of 25 February 2016), the European Commission answered on 22 April 2016 that it ‘continues to work closely with Member States’ competent authorities to ensure that MRLs [maximum residue levels] established in the legislation are complied with, and that food products are safe for human consumption’.
Relevant background documents on the risk assessment that has been carried out by the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) are available on its website, as well as their press release of 12 November 2015 which conveys the conclusions of that assessment.
More details are available on the European Commission’s webpage on pesticides, where a section on the Approval of active substances may be found. The European Parliament study EU’s Pesticide Risk Assessment System: The Case of Glyphosate summarises the presentations and discussions of the workshop on subject. The article ‘Renewing authorisation for glyphosate‘, published on 7 April 2016 by the European Parliamentary Research Service might also be of interest for its background information.
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