European Commission proposes to increase transparency of studies into food safety

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Image source, European Commission / EU

The European Commission today partially responded to European Citizens’ Initiative “Ban glyphosate” by proposing to increase the amount of information submitted to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) citizens can access, as well as allowing EFSA to carry out additional studies when requested by the Commission. These changes come alongside other measures the Commission claims would enhance transparency into these studies.

EU commissioners aim for the proposal to be adopted before the European elections of 2019, mid-2019, if possible.

EU Commission claims proposal will “improve transparency”

The European Commission’s proposal would allow citizens to have immediate access to studies and supporting evidence for risk assessment submitted to EFSA, with confidential information being protected in justified circumstances, and these studies should be made available on EFSA’s website and be easily accessible.

The Commission will be able to request additional studies, financed by the EU budget, to be conducted by EFSA, and it will also create a common European register of commissioned studies, to ensure that unfavourable studies aren’t held back and all relevant information will be submitted. Scientific opinions delivered by the food safety authority will also be communicated better.

The Commission also proposes requiring the consultation of stakeholders and the public on studies submitted by industry, in order to support product authorisation requests. A special procedure will be introduced, including a public consultation, on substances that have already been authorised and are up for renewal.

First Vice President Frans Timmermans said that the Commission is addressing the concerns of citizens, and aiming “to improve transparency about decision making, to offer better access to relevant information, and to ensure that trustworthy, science-based risk assessment remains at the heart of decision making in this sensitive area of food safety.”

Pesticide & food safety authorisation process controversial

European Citizens’ Initiative “Ban glyphosate”, signed by over 1.07 million Europeans, received a response on the 12th December 2017, on the same day that the European Commission renewed the approval of glyphosate for 5 years after a protracted disagreement among EU member states about how long the license should be renewed for, if at all, with member states such as France pledging to ban it.

Glyphosate is a herbicide and weedkiller, used to protect crops. Some studies, such as one carried out by the World Health Organisation, have found that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic” , though other studies dispute the risk it potentially poses.

Following this controversial renewal, made possible by internal disagreement among German coalition partners, the European Parliament in March set up a committee to investigate the process of pesticide authorisation in the EU. Legislative follow-up is not guaranteed, however, as only the Commission can propose legislation.

While the main request of the citizens’ initiative, banning glyphosate-based herbicides, was rejected, the Commission agreed to improving the transparency of the scientific evaluations and the approval process of pesticides.

The European Citizens Initiative requires over 1 million citizens from 7 member states to sign a proposal calling on the European Commission to propose legislation, if it has the power to do so. The Commission then has 3 months to consider whether it will propose legislation, explaining its reasoning as to why it accepts or rejects it.

 

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