MEP Pavel Poc on Glyphosate

The debate on glyphosate reauthorisation in the European Union (EU) has recently culminated under the shade of the so-called Monsanto papers scandal. The European Parliament (EP) played an important role in the postponement of the authorisation in the beginning of 2016 and will probably have to act again regarding how the EU legislation on pesticide authorisation is executed by the agencies and the European Commission (EC).

Despite a clear position voiced in the EP Resolution from 13 April 2016 on renewal of the approval of the active substance glyphosate, there is still a lot of confusion about the EP’s position about the reauthorisation of the world’s best-selling herbicide.

EP urged EC to acknowledge a majority of two decisive political groups and to mirror the outcome of the vote in their proposal, but despite the EC’s claims about respecting this, only a very limited part of the EP resolution was eventually reflected in the EC draft proposal. As a consequence, the Member States refused to back the Commission proposal with a qualified majority, effectively leaving the whole situation without a decision.

Let us look closer at the EP’s Resolution adopted in 2016 to clarify some of the recent developments. The objection to the re-approval of glyphosate as adopted in the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) was modified into a 7-year re-approval in the plenary of the EP. The 7-year option got a majority of only sixteen votes and many MEPs wanted a stricter time frame. In addition, crucial restrictions were adopted leaving only few uses for re-approval. Parliament agreed on no approval of non-professional use; close to public areas; where integrated pest management systems are sufficient for weed control; and on limited pre-harvest applications (for weed control and to enhance crop ripening). This means, that the EP did not call for a complete rejection of the approval as adopted in the ENVI committee but for a realistic option with many restrictions. The EC previously stated that if the two political groups reached an agreement (and they did), the EC would respect it, but that was not the case. EP criticized the EC draft implementing act for failing to ensure a high level of protection of human and animal health and the environment. MEPs also called for an independent review of overall toxicity of glyphosate and asked the EC and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to immediately disclose all scientific evidence for the positive classification of glyphosate. EP also wanted the EC to start testing and monitoring glyphosate residues in foods and drinks produced in the EU as well as in imported products. There was also criticism of the EC for accepting an incomplete dossier with regard to endocrine disruption and a call to provide reference to further evidence of adverse effects of glyphosate. The resolution as a whole was adopted by majority.

The addition of key specific restrictions, most of which were supported by a large majority, provided an excellent basis for further discussion with the Member States against the EC proposal. As a rapporteur of the resolution, I am strongly convinced that we achieved a good result that was however not reflected in the EC’s actions. I think this was a missed opportunity to accommodate the different positions and to effectively address the problem of glyphosate re-authorisation before the situation is clear with concerns about its carcinogenicity and genotoxicity or potentially devastating effects on cellular metabolism due to suppression of CYP 450 enzymes.

Pavel Poc
Member of European Parliament


La Sapienza, Università di Roma, is the venue chosen by Società Chimica Italiana, a EuCheMS Member Society, which will host the EuCheMS annual meeting this year. As is traditional in Roma when it comes to hosting European meetings, quite some strategic discussions and decisions are expected in this global city by the EuCheMS community. Amongst others, David Cole-Hamilton, EuCheMS President, will give an overview on EuCheMS growth during the past three years. His intervention will serve as an input into a discussion, chaired by Pilar Goya, who will preside over EuCheMS as of 1 January 2018, on the advancement of EuCheMS in the coming years. EuCheMS Member Societies, Professional Networks and Executive Board Members are invited to join this brainstorming session, which will be discussing questions on collaboration between Member Organisations and Professional Networks in organising conferences, on integrating policy activities into Professional Networks’ agendas, on strategic discussion on EuCheMS Professional Networks and other issues.

For details and registration, please see http://www.euchems.eu/about-us/2017-general-assembly-rome-italy/.

I look forward to meeting you in Roma.

Nineta Hrastelj
EuCheMS General Secretary