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"Crop protection investigation: "Health should be the priority"
There are long-standing concerns about how some components of crop protection, such as glyphosate, might affect people's health. In October 2017 MEPs demanded a full ban on glyphosate-based herbicides by 2022 and immediate restrictions on using the substance. However, EU countries decided in November 2017 that the herbicide can be used in the EU for another five years, with no full ban in sight.
In 2018 the European Parliament set up a special committee to look into the issue. We talked about the tasks ahead with committee chair Eric Andrieu, a French member of the S&D group.
EU countries have decided to renew authorisation for glyphosates until 2022, so why has the Parliament decided to set up a special committee this year?
"Renewing the authorisation does not address the issue of the scientific controversy. It is irresponsible to renew without having more proof that the glyphosate molecule and its co-formulants are not health hazards. In order to safeguard the health of 500 million Europeans, we need to evaluate the existing process and check if improvements are needed."
What do you think the first tasks of the committee should be?
"One task would be to bring the knowledge of the committee members up to date. It will then be a question of evaluating each step of the authorisation procedure by questioning the stakeholders: companies, NGOs, scientists. At the end we will put forward concrete proposals for improving the process."
This affects many people: farmers, companies and especially citizens. How will you balance their different interests?
"For us the most important thing is safeguarding the health of 500 million Europeans. Of course farmers use glyphosate, but when you ask them, “Would you continue to use glyphosate if they are found to be a health hazard?”, they say “no”. They will find a solution.
Some scientists are critical about the choice of studies by EFSA. We will have to see how this selection of studies is done. We also have to make the industry more aware of the health and ethics issues. We can’t tolerate everything in the name of boosting the economy. For me health should be the priority. It’s about getting the industry to act differently."
The Monsanto Papers scandal has raised a lot of interest. What can the European Parliament do to ensure there are independent scientific studies?
"More resources are certainly needed to ensure scientists are independent and we will need to look into that. What guarantees do we have that reports produced by EFSA are independent? How do we prevent lobbying from influencing the process? Therefore we need rules to ensure no-one can doubt the validity or the independence of the studies and the choices that have been made. The Monsanto-Bayer merger shows again how companies’ control over the living world is being concentrated in the hands of a few. To me this is unacceptable."
Glyphosates are now authorised until 2022. Can we expect changes before then?
"The decision taken by the European Commission and the Council has not been challenged before the European courts.
I don’t have the means to challenge the decision myself, otherwise I would have done it. However, it’s possible we will ask for a scientific reassessment before the end of the mandate. In this case it is possible that glyphosates are banned."
The crop protection committee has until the end of 2018 to come forward with proposals. What would you consider a good outcome?
"We will have succeeded if we come up with concrete proposals in December showing the European Commission what needs to be done so that 500 million Europeans can eat, drink and breathe without having to worry about their health.
At the moment not a week goes by without a new health scandal making the headlines. We need to do everything we can to ensure a better protection of consumers’ health. It’s our responsibility. We have to succeed. We do not have a choice."
Source: European Parliament
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