Glyphosate: how Europe intends to boost citizens' confidence

The European Commission unveiled, on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, proposals to make more transparent the scientific evaluation process on which food safety authorizations are based . This reform applies to eight different sectors. In addition to phytosanitary products, it concerns transparency regarding GMOs, food additives (humans and animals), materials in contact with food and "new foods".

President Frans Timmermans declared in a communiqué : "Today, we respond to citizens' concerns by improving the transparency of decision-making, by providing better access to relevant information and ensuring that science-based risk assessment remains at the heart of the decision-making process in this sensitive area of ​​food safety ".

Citizen pressure too strong

In December 2017, Brussels had promised to review its legislation yielding to the pressure of a petition: European Citizens Initiative (ICE) signed by more than one million Europeans. At that time, the European Commission officially adopted the new glyphosate license which ended more than two years of battle around this controversial herbicide. Opponents and supporters of glyphosate had torn apart scientific studies of the carcinogenic or non-carcinogenic nature of the most widely used herbicide in the world.

The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) ranked it " probably non-carcinogenic ", paving the way for its reauthorization in the European Union, a few months after the contrary opinion by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (CIR), a body of the World Health Organization (WHO). Opponents of this herbicide had ensured that Efsa relied on studies provided by the phytosanitary industry, and in particular the American giant Monsanto, which produces glyphosate.

A new reform for greater transparency

" With this new reform, citizens will have immediate access to scientific studies that support claims ," said EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. Thus, the reform proposed by the Commission aims to make publicly available and accessible risk assessment studies " at an early stage of the procedure ". A register to compile all the studies commissioned by companies requiring an authorization, will be created, in order to " guarantee that they do not hide unfavorable studies ". This reform would also give the European Commission the power to request additional studies from the European Food Safety Agency " in exceptional circumstances, such as a high degree of controversy around a substance

Through this reform, the European Commission also wishes to strengthen the responsibility and involvement of the Member States. They will now be asked to submit a set of candidates for an expert election to the scientific committees of the European Food Safety Agency. " It is necessary that citizens continue to believe that the system (…) works well ," said Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans at a press point. Referring to the ECI, he welcomed the fact that the action of European citizens could "have a direct impact on the political agenda of the European Union ". The Commission's proposal is now in the hands of the two European legislators, the Parliament and the Council composed of the Member States.

EU: Commission draws lessons from glyphosate and unveils proposals for more transparency

The European Commission, drawing lessons from the controversy over the renewal of the glyphosate license in the EU, unveiled proposals on Wednesday to make the scientific assessment process on which

Brussels, under pressure from a petition (European Citizens Initiative, ECI) signed by more than one million Europeans, promised in December to review its legislation, when it officially adopted the new license of the glyphosate that ended more than two years of battle around this controversial herbicide.

"With this reform, citizens will have immediate access to scientific studies that support applications for authorization," said Wednesday the Commissioner to Health Vytenis Andriukaitis

Glyphosate opponents and supporters tore up around sawing studies on the carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic nature of the most widely used herbicide in the world

The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) classified it as "probably non-carcinogenic", paving the way for its re-authorization in the European Union, a few months after the contrary opinion by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (CIRC), a body of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Critics have argued that the Efsa relied on studies provided by the phytosanitary industry, and in particular the American giant Monsanto, which produces glyphosate.

The reform proposed by the Commission aims to make public and accessible risk assessment studies " at an early stage of the procedure ". A register would be created to compile all studies commissioned by companies requiring authorization to "ensure that they do not hide adverse studies."

It would also give the Commission the power to ask the Efsa to commission additional studies "in the case of exceptional circumstances, such as a high degree of controversy around a substance", emphasizes the European executive in an explanatory document.

The Commission also wants to strengthen the responsibility of member states within the EFSA, asking them to present a set of candidates from among which would be chosen the experts of the scientific committees of the agency.

"It is necessary that the citizens continue to believe that the system (… is working well, "said Vice-President Frans Timmermans at a press point. Referring to the ECI, he welcomed the fact that the action of European citizens "can have a direct impact on the political agenda" of the EU

The legislative reform targets eight different sectors linked to the food safety: in addition to phytosanitary products, it concerns in particular transparency regarding GMOs, food additives (human and animal), materials in contact with food or "new foods".

The proposal for the Commission is now in the hands of the two European legislators, the Parliament and the Council (the Member States).

A limited ban on glyphosate advocated by parliamentarians

The French Parliamentary Information Mission on Pesticides created in October 2017 by the National Assembly, advocates in its report made public Wednesday, April 4, 2018, a better prevention and information on the dangers caused by these products , but significantly restricts the proposed perimeter scope of one of the most controversial of them, glyphosate. " The establishment of a causal link between the occurrence of a pathology and exposure to plant protection products is delicate ," notes the parliamentary mission. The latter wishes " to have documented data and especially epidemiological studies ". To this end, it wishes " to reinforce the ecotoxicological monitoring systems in order to have more complete and monitored data from the different environments and species to be monitored as a matter of priority "

The Parliamentary Mission also wishes " set up a national system for monitoring pesticides in the air and set a threshold for the detection of plant protection products ". ATMO France, which federates air quality monitoring associations, had already announced at the end of November 2017 a campaign to measure pesticides in the air in 2018.

Limited measures for glyphosate

The mission notes however, in his report that " several recent studies show, no doubt possible, the damage caused by widespread use of pesticides ". It evokes the disappearance of a large part of insects, birds and other pollinators . It therefore insists on " the need to drastically reduce the use of pesticides to strive as quickly as possible for their abandonment ".

But it temporizes immediately, writing that " the process will take of time ". Thus, on the emblematic example of glyphosate, controversial herbicide, the rapporteurs judge " necessary to accelerate the research and development work to find credible alternatives ", implicitly believing that there is no has not. The report suggests " to ban, in the immediate future, the use of glyphosate in its desiccative function at the national level ", the use on plants to dehydrate them and facilitate their harvest. But, according to the wheat producers, this use almost never takes place on the cereals of France and such a prohibition would therefore have no effect.

Pesticides: French parliamentarians call for limited ban on glyphosate

The French parliamentary information mission on pesticides advocates, in its report made public Wednesday, a better prevention and information concerning the dangers caused by these products, but considerably restricts the perimeter of envisaged prohibition of one of the most controversial among them, glyphosate.

"The establishment of a causal link between the occurrence of a pathology and exposure to plant protection products is difficult," notes the parliamentary mission, which wishes "to have data For this purpose, it wishes to "reinforce ecotoxicological monitoring devices in order to have more complete and monitored data for the various media and for the species to be monitored in priority".

It also wants to "set up a national system for monitoring pesticides in the air and set a detection threshold. n phytopharmaceutical products ". ATMO France, which federates the air quality monitoring associations, had already announced at the end of November a campaign to measure pesticides in the air in 2018.

The mission however notes in its report that "several recent studies show, no doubt possible, the damage "caused by a" wide use "of pesticides, evoking the disappearance of a large part of insects, birds and other pollinators.

 Glyphosate (AFP - Alain BOMMENEL, Laurence SAUBADU, Kun TIAN)

Glyphosate (AFP – Alain BOMMENEL, Laurence SAUBADU, Kun TIAN)

It therefore insists on "the need to drastically reduce the use of pesticides to strive as quickly as possible to abandon them". [19659002] But she temporizes immediately, writing that "the process will take time". Thus, on the emblematic example of glyphosate, a controversial herbicide, the rapporteurs deem it "necessary to accelerate research and development work to find credible alternatives", implicitly believing that there are none.

The report suggests "to ban, in the immediate future, the use of glyphosate in its desiccative function at the national level", namely the use on plants to dehydrate them and facilitate their harvest.

– The NGOs denounce a "backpedaling" –

But, according to the wheat producers, this use almost never took place on the cereals of France and such a prohibition would therefore have no effect.

"We do not 'use only after harvest on the fields,' explains AFP Philippe Pinta, president of the AGPB (wheat producers). He explains that "it's the sun doing the job" to dehydrate the plant, unlike in other countries like Canada.

 Glyphosate in France (AFP - Sabrina BLANCHARD)

Glyphosate in France (AFP – Sabrina BLANCHARD)

"Desiccant use is already banned, it's really the powder in the eyes!" Responded Carmen Etcheverry, in charge of agriculture for the NGO FNE (France Nature Environment ), who also denounced a "back-pedaling" on glyphosate.

"One has the impression that they have recorded the unacceptable effects (phytosanitary), they recognize a dangerousness but it spoils the means implemented, which are not up to or even induce setbacks", François Veillerette, director of Générations Futures, told AFP.

On the other hand, Éric Thirouin, deputy secretary general of the FNSEA, welcomed the content of this report, which tends to "find solutions rather that bans. "

Socialist MP and former Minister of Ecology Delphine Batho had announced Thursday his resignation from the vice presidency" because the draft report does not advocate the exit of glyphosate or even its ban in three years, "contrary to what the executive promised only a few months ago.

The parliamentarians also propose the creation of a compensation fund for victims of phytosanitary products, object of a proposal of lo i PS passed in early February in the Senate against the advice of the government. However, the report's authors do not say how this fund would be financed.

Pesticide Mission: Disappointed on glyphosate, Batho resigns as Vice President

Socialist MEP and former Minister of Ecology Delphine Batho, disappointed with conclusions "not up to" the fact-finding mission on phytosanitary products, announced Thursday his resignation of the vice-presidency.

"I have just resigned from the vice-presidency of the information mission on phyto-pharmaceutical products because the draft report does not advocate the exit of glyphosate or even its prohibition in three years, only the prohibition for a "specific" use, she announced at a meeting of the Commission for Sustainable Development.

"Continue as before, it is not up to par, while every day brings a lot of news alarming studies on the impact of pesticides on human health and the collapse of biodiversity, which is also far below the commitments of the President of the Republic on the release of glyphosate, "Ms Batho told AFP

In the draft report, she also regretted statements stating, for example, that the assessment of the health effects of pesticides remained delicate, or the absence of mention of the "Monsanto Papers" case. 19659002] In the eyes of this the vice-president of the Socialist Group, the only point of advance in the report is the creation of a compensation fund for victims of phytosanitary products, subject of a bill PS passed in early February in the Senate against the opinion

On the other hand, pleading for "the hour of truth", Ms Batho passed an amendment to ban the glyphosate from July 2021, during the examination, for opinion, of the draft law. law on agriculture in Sustainable Development Committee. The measure is not yet part of the bill.

The rapporteur LREM initially objected that it was "perhaps a little fast compared to the approach of the president and the government of conviction to the partners". Further proof, according to former PS minister, of an "ongoing rewriting of the presidential commitment, a great procrastination behind the scenes of power."

An amendment by Matthieu Orphelin (LREM), former right-hand man of Nicolas Hulot in his foundation, to include in the law a definition of neonicotinoids was also adopted.

And the president of the commission and former Secretary of State for Biodiversity Barbara Pompili (LREM, from the ranks of ecologists) has then hailed on Twitter "progress in committee on the prohibition of glyphosate, the definition of neonicotinoids, training in alternatives to phyto … and vote on a report on the compensation of victims of phyto".