Ladies & gentlemen,
This morning, I debriefed my colleagues Commissioners on the state of the discussions that the Commission is having with the Member States on the Glyphosate file.
First of all, I want to stress again that the EU’s authorisation procedure as regards pesticides is the strictest in the world.
It takes years of scientific assessment before an active substance is authorised – or renewed at EU level.
Our scientific process is very stringent and relies on pooling of expertise between the European Food Safety Authority and all 28 Member States.
Our proposals and decisions on glyphosate were based on the guided assessment done by EFSA and before it – German Federal institute for Risk Assessment (Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung). They both concluded that Glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic.
Since last autumn, my services have been discussing with the Member States the best way forward on the renewal of glyphosate in the Expert Committee. We have been aiming at a solution that commands the widest possible support of the Member States.
So far, even though a majority of Member States is in favour of the renewal, no qualified majority has been reached, in spite of the Commission’s efforts to accommodate requests and concerns from a number of national governments, as well as from the European Parliament (which expressed itself in favour of a 7-year renewal).
Some Member States have been reluctant to take a position.
I believe it is important to clarify that once an active substance is approved – or renewed at EU level – it is then up to Member States to authorise the final products (the herbicides and pesticides themselves) put on their respective markets.
The EU approval of an active substance only means that the Member States can authorise plant protection products on their territory, but they are not obliged to do that.
The Member States who wish not to use glyphosate based products have the possibility to restrict their use. They do not need to hide behind the Commission’s decision.
However, if there is no EU approval, Member States have no choice anymore: the authorisation expires on the 1st of July. Should there be no extension, Member States would have to withdraw the authorisations for plant protection products containing glyphosate from their market.
We have now called for the Expert Committee to meet on the 6th of June to discuss the file once again and take the vote on the basis of a limited extension of the current approval, until ECHA opinion dispels the remaining doubts.
Indeed, under the EU law, the last word belongs to the ECHA (European Union’s Agency for Chemical Products), this is why the Commission proposes to ask ECHA for its scientific assessment on the carcinogenicity of the glyphosate and to extend the current approval of glyphosate until it receives ECHA’s opinion.
Next Monday, Member States will therefore be asked to vote on such a measure. Once again, this is a collective decision.
Going beyond these immediate measures, the Commission is preparing a second decision, reviewing the conditions of use of glyphosate. In this decision, I would like to make 3 clear recommendations to the Member States:
- Ban a co-formulant called POE-tallowamine from glyphosate based products;
- Minimise the use in public parks, public playgrounds and gardens;
- Minimise the pre-harvest use of glyphosate.
The responsibility to introduce such type of measures belongs to the Member State, but I believe this is important to promote sustainable use of pesticides and herbicides.
In conclusion, I want to reiterate that the ball is now in the Member States’ court.
The Commission has done its outmost to reach a suitable solution, based on sound scientific evidence.
As a Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, I reiterate that for me high level of protection of human health and the environment, as provided for by the EU legislation, is paramount. At the same time, I remained deeply convinced that our decisions should remain based on science, not on political convenience.
I look forward to a response from the Member States.