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On 11 December 2018, the European Parliament has the opportunity to make or break business secrecy in decisions on food safety in a vote on amendments to the General Food Law. If adopted, these amendments would annul intentions from the EU Commission to increase transparency in this field.

Members of the EU Parliament Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee voted on 29 November to revise the General Food Law – the founding legal text of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – obliging close to all data used in the assessment of food safety to be made publicly available.

The EU Parliament is one step closer to making sure the EFSA makes public all data relevant for environmental and health protection underpinning its evaluations, as soon as it receives them. At the moment, EFSA only provides summaries of these industry studies, making it impossible for watchdogs like independent scientists, civil society and citizens to properly scrutinise them.

However, new amendments tabled by MEP Renate Sommer – the rapporteur for the General Food Law revision – include the deletion of the overriding public interest, a widening of the scope of confidentiality on industry data, an obligation for EFSA to prove that dissemination of data does not harm business interests, and a delay to the time of publication of EFSA conclusions [1].

If adopted, these amendments that were already rejected in ENVI would de facto annul the good intentions of the EU Commission proposal to increase transparency in this field, as requested by the European Citizens Initiative Ban Glyphosate.

Decisions on food safety should not be based on secret industry studies, period. EU citizens, independent scientists and civil society have the right to know how these decisions can potentially impact our health and the environment”, says Sophie Perroud, Policy Coordinator at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

Background

In 2017, more than one million Europeans asked the European Commission to ban glyphosate and to ensure the publication of all industry-funded studies used to back up regulatory decisions on pesticides [2].

In response, the Commission proposed a legislative reform [3] that aims to oblige the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to proactively publish all studies that are submitted by companies when they request EU market authorisation for their products. Organisers of the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Stop Glyphosate’ – which HEAL belongs to – have previously welcomed the proposal [4].