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#Pesticides - MEPs propose blueprint to improve EU approval procedure

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Tractor spraying pesticides on vegetable field with sprayer at spring Long-term toxicity should be taken into account during authorisation procedures, say MEPs 

Plans to boost trust in the EU approval procedure by making it more transparent and accountable were put forward by the special committee on pesticides.

Among many proposals, MEPs agreed last week that the public should be granted access to the studies used in the procedure to authorize a pesticide, including all the supporting data and information relating to the applications.

MEPs note that concerns have been raised about the right of applicants to choose a particular member state to report on the approval of an active substance to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), as this practice is seen as lacking in transparency and could entail a conflict of interests. They call on the Commission to allocate the authorisation renewal to a different member state.

During the procedure, applicants should be required to register all regulatory studies that will be carried out in a public register, and allow for a “comment period”, during which stakeholders are able to provide additional existing data to ensure that all relevant information is taken into account before a decision is made.

Post-market evaluation and real-life impact

Post-market evaluation should be strengthened, and the Commission should launch an epidemiological study on the real-life impact of pesticides on human health, MEPs say. They also propose to review existing studies on carcinogenicity of glyphosate and to set maximum residue levels for soils and surface water.

Political accountability

MEPs finally stress the need to ensure political accountability when authorization is adopted in the form of implementing acts - in the so-called “comitology procedure”. Commission and member states should publish detailed minutes and make their votes public.

“We need evolution, not revolution. The adopted report underpins this spirit to expand and improve the best authorisation system in the world”, said co-rapporteur Norbert Lins (EPP, DE). “Today we put forward recommendations without overhauling structures which work. We want to make sure the authorisation procedure for plant protection products remains science-based and relies on independent, transparent and efficient processes”, he said.

“We ask for full transparency with regard to the studies used for the assessment, to make them more independent and based on scientific evidence, to avoid conflicts of interests, to fully test active substances, to thoroughly test pesticide products, including the cumulative effects and for stronger risk management measures,” said co-rapporteur Bart Staes (Greens/EFA, BE).

“There are common positions on the essential elements", said Committee Chairman Eric Andrieu (S&D, FR). "It is a question of revising the protocol for the authorization of molecules and making concrete recommendations. This is the mission we set ourselves in order not to get lost in the many challenges" he recalled. “In particular, we ask member states to no longer approve synthetic active substances,” he said.

Next steps

The recommendations were adopted with 23 votes to 5 and 1 abstention. The full House is to vote on the report during its 14-17 January plenary session in Strasbourg.

Background

Nine years after the adoption of the Plant Protection Products Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009) and following the controversy about the renewal of glyphosate, the European Parliament, on 6 February 2018, set up a Special committee on the European Union’s authorisation procedure for pesticides. The PEST Committee’s mandate, as laid down in Parliament’s decision of 6 February 2018, required the special committee to look into the EU’s authorization procedure for pesticides as a whole.

The co-rapporteurs presented their draft report in September 2018. It included many suggestions on how to improve the procedure, focusing on the issues laid down in the mandate, such as transparency, independence and resources.

Environment

Water management: Commission consults to update lists of pollutants affecting surface and ground water

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The Commission has launched an online public consultation to seek views on the upcoming review of the lists of pollutants occurring in surface and ground waters, as well as on corresponding regulatory standards. This initiative is particularly important for implementing the recently adopted Zero Pollution Action Plan as part of the European Green Deal, and wider efforts to secure the more efficient and safer use of water.

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “All Europeans should benefit from clean water. Ensuring good quality of surface and groundwater in Europe is paramount for human health and for the environment. Pollution caused by pesticides, manmade chemicals or from residues of pharmaceuticals must be avoided as much as possible. We want to hear your views on how this can best be achieved.”

A recent evaluation (‘fitness check') in December 2019, found EU water legislation to be broadly fit for purpose. However, improvement is needed on aspects such as investment, implementing rules, integrating water objectives into other policies, administrative simplification and digitalisation. This revision aims to address some of the shortcomings in relation to chemical pollution and the legal obligation to regularly review the lists of pollutants, as well as to help accelerate implementation. The public consultation is open for feedback until 1 November 2021. More information is in this news release.

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Environment

EU invests €122 million in innovative projects to decarbonize the economy

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For the first time since the creation of the Innovation Fund, the European Union is investing €118 million into 32 small innovative projects located in 14 EU member states, Iceland and Norway. The grants will support projects aiming to bring low-carbon technologies to the market in energy intensive industries, hydrogen, energy storage and renewable energy. In addition to these grants, 15 projects located in 10 EU member states and Norway will benefit from project development assistance worth up to €4.4 million, with the aim of advancing their maturity.

Executive Vice President Timmermans said: “With today's investment, the EU is giving concrete support to clean tech projects all over Europe to scale up technological solutions that can help reach climate neutrality by 2050. The increase of the Innovation Fund proposed in the Fit for 55 Package will enable the EU to support even more projects in the future, speed them up, and bring them to the market as quickly as possible.”

A press release is available online.

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Belgium

Cars and pavements washed away as Belgian town hit by worst floods in decades

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The southern Belgian town of Dinant was hit by the heaviest floods in decades on Saturday (24 July) after a two-hour thunderstorm turned streets into torrential streams that washed away cars and pavements but did not kill anyone, writes Jan Strupczewski, Reuters.

Dinant was spared the deadly floods 10 days ago that killed 37 people in southeast Belgium and many more in Germany, but the violence of Saturday's storm surprised many.

"I have been living in Dinant for 57 years, and I've never seen anything like that," Richard Fournaux, the former mayor of the town on the Meuse river and birthplace of the 19th century inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax, said on social media.

A woman works to recover her belongings following heavy rainfall in Dinant, Belgium July 25, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron
A woman walks in an area affected by heavy rainfall in Dinant, Belgium July 25, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Rainwater gushing down steep streets swept away dozens of cars, piling them in a heap at a crossing, and washed away cobbles stones, pavements and whole sections of tarmac as inhabitants watched in horror from windows.

There was no precise estimate of the damage, with town authorities predicting only that it would be "significant", according to Belgian RTL TV.

The storm wreaked similar havoc, also with no loss of life, in the small town of Anhee a few kilometres north of Dinant.

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