A coalition of civil society organizations, including Slow Food, have released an open letter tackling the failure of the EU’s pesticide approval system. The letter is addressed to the Special committee on the EU authorization procedure on pesticides (known as PEST) of the European Parliament, in view of their first meeting today.
The committee was established at the beginning of this year to look into the authorization procedure for pesticides, following the tortuous process that, last November, led to the five-year renewal of the commercialization license of glyphosate. The subject of much controversy, glyphosate is the most widely sold weed killer in the world and is routinely used in farming, in the maintenance of public areas and by people in their gardens. Its safety has long been under scrutiny, with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) both classifying it as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans.’
The controversy following the approval of the herbicide revealed the influence that chemical companies have on EU scientific assessments and highlighted a disregard for the concerns of independent scientists, the European Parliament and the general public. In the letter, the group of NGOs express their concern with the fact that the EU’s scientific body, the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) relied on unpublished industry studies for its assessment whilst ignoring most independent scientific studies on glyphosate. Shockingly, as the letter points out, large sections of the report underlying the EFSA conclusion were copied directly from Monsanto’s application for the re-approval of glyphosate. Furthermore, the European Commission did not investigate any of these issues at the time, despite mounting pressure and large demonstrations from the public.
Flaws in the approval procedure were also the object of a scientific study published in March of this year in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The study concluded that the assessment made by European authorities on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate was incomplete and that had a proper application of research methods been carried out, the conclusion would inevitably have been that glyphosate is ‘probably carcinogenic’.
All these elements have fueled a sense of distrust in the EU with regards to the protection of its citizens. The establishment of the PEST committee is a welcome move and will hopefully help to provide some transparency in future assessments, starting by learning from the mistakes made in the glyphosate case.
Click here to read the full letter.