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Procedure leaves gates open for banned pesticides

EU Member States and Health DG SANCO allow data gaps on a massive scale in the approval process of pesticides. This is what PAN Europe learned by analysing one of the major derogation systems of regulators known as ‘Resubmission’. The process allows twisting and bending of the rules by Member States (MS) and Health DG SANCO, they say.

In studied cases of different pesticides subjected to the resubmission system, risk assessment for the environment was simply not possible due to lack of data in 10 out of 10 cases of approved chemicals. In eight out of 10 cases, consumer risk assessment was not finalised due to a lack of data. For the pesticide bromuconazole the existence of five data gaps was considered acceptable. These decisions expose people and the environment to unknown risks. Data gaps are not allowed at all by Pesticide Directive 91/414; all required toxicity studies must be performed.

Resubmission is a new “invention” developed behind the scenes by the standing committee of national representatives and European Commission in 2007. It grants the pesticide industry a second chance when a chemical is banned or withdrawn. Companies are granted years of free market access during the process of evaluation in exchange for a “voluntary withdrawal” of their chemical. The threat of massive amounts of court cases from chemical industry and the political desire to “finalise” the much-delayed evaluation of pesticides most likely caused this strange ‘deal’. Industry could not resist such an advantageous offer and resulted in applications for 87 different active substances, which completely paralysed the SANCO and Food Authority EFSA evaluation system over a period of more than three years.

PAN-Europe’s new study “Twisting and bending the rules” also revealed that MS and Commission will never ban a pesticide solely because of environmental risks. In 10 out of 10 cases studied the condition of “not having unacceptable effects on the environment” were not met; in seven out of 10 cases even high risks for the environment were considered acceptable for an approval. This is a grave violation of the rules and a systematic undermining of the central criterion for pesticide approval: no unacceptable influence on the environment.

While offering industry this enormous present, the necessary work on the renewal of the pesticide system – as required by the new Regulation 1007/2009 - is halted. No work is being done on the reconstruction of the outdated and insensitive toxicity test requirements or neither on the renewing of the old risk assessment methodologies nor on the substitution of pesticides.

Hans Muilerman of PAN-Europe states: “It is unacceptable that Member States and SANCO are wasting their time on these pesticides only because of fears of being bullied by industry. Regulators neglected their mission to protect people health and the environment and gave priority to putting more pesticides on the market, up from 250 to over 350 now. A reform of risk assessment and a return to a respect for the rules is urgently needed”.

10/05/2012

Originally posted on 10 May 2012

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