The General Court of the European Union (TGUE) ruled that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) should allow access to toxicity and carcinogenicity studies of the active substance of glyphosate, a herbicide that the World Health Organization warned about in 2015
The court annulled two EFSA decisions that denied access to details on studies related to the most used and controversial herbicide in the world, used by multinationals such as Monsanto, and that the European Commission (EC) agreed in November 2017 to renew its license in the European Union (EU) until 2022, despite the opposition of countries like France.
The EFSA had denied the request for access to different parts of scientific studies of that agency regarding the health and environmental impact that the glyphosate had, which had been conducted by a European citizen and the European MEPs Heidi Hautala, Michèle Rivasi, Benedek Jávor, and Bart Staes.
The claimants recalled in their request that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded in March 2015 that glyphosate had potential carcinogenicity and that in November 2015, the examination by the EFSA counterparts had concluded It probably did not present any carcinogenic risk to people, the court said.
The EFSA argued its refusal to allow access to these documents, among other reasons, on the grounds that its disclosure would seriously damage the commercial and financial interests of the companies that submitted the study reports, and argued that there was no superior public interest to justify the disclosure.
This EU agency also considered that "access to the parts of these studies was not necessary to verify the scientific risk assessment carried out in accordance with the Regulation on the marketing of plant protection products", added the Luxembourg Court.
However, the TGUE maintained in its ruling that the public must have access "not only to information on emissions (...) but also to information relative to the more or less long-term consequences of these emissions on the state of the environment, as well as the effects of these emissions on organisms other than those to which the product is intended."
The ruling of the TGUE, which admits a cassation appeal before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), also establishes that access to these documents "has a superior public interest with respect to the interest based on the protection of commercial interests of a physical or legal person."
An EFSA spokesman said they welcomed the ruling and added that the decision "is important because it gives guidance to EFSA and others charged with interpreting EU legislation on public access to documents."
Meanwhile, the director of food policy for the EU Greenpeace, Franziska Achterberg, stated that the ruling was "a big step towards transparency and the assumption of responsibilities in the decision-making of the European Union."
"It is shocking that the EFSA had to be reminded in court that its mission is to defend public health, not to protect the commercial interests of glyphosate manufacturers," she said.
The Spanish MEP of EQUO Flore Marcellesi of the Greens / ALE group of the European Parliament said that the ruling was "a victory in the fight against secrecy when there are environmental and health risks caused by dangerous products such as glyphosate."
"In the future, thanks to the publication of all available studies, other independent scientists will have the possibility of double-checking the science behind the evaluations of pesticides," he added.