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New paper condemns pesticide risk assessments in Europe
A new peer-reviewed paper authored by a group of experts in law, policy, and toxicology has identified systemic failings in Europe’s pesticide risk assessment process. The experts have proposed a comprehensive agenda for far-reaching reform after their paper outlined how these failings could seriously undermine ambitions for sustainable agriculture and a “green recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Calls for such a “green recovery” have arisen from 13 European climate and environment ministers, from 180 policy makers, business leaders, researchers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and from WWF. On 16 April, Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president of the European Commission in charge of the European Green Deal, added his voice, demanding an end to old, polluting models of production and a shift to a “circular, sustainable and highly competitive economy”.
These thought leaders agree that business as usual is not an option.
According to the new paper, published in the European Journal of Risk Regulation, Europe is consistently failing to implement and enforce its own regulations on pesticides. While the EU's pesticides Regulation 1107/2009 is, in theory, one of the most stringent in the world, it has yet to achieve its aim of “an independent, objective and transparent assessment of pesticides and achieve a high level of protection for health and environment”. The paper presents a series of recommendations to resolve these problems.
Focusing on glyphosate as a case study of scientific and regulatory controversy, the paper highlights:
Widespread misuse and misinterpretation of scientific research, with cherry-picking of favorable studies, plagiarism and uncritical repetition of findings presented as independent validation, and misuse of statistical and analytical tools
Ongoing failure to address mixture effects, including of additives which, even though they can change the toxicity profile of the active ingredient, are not part of the pesticide approval process
Failure to properly address conflicts of interest within regulatory agencies, undermining the independence and objectivity of pesticide assessments.
As a result of these failings, multiple pesticides are passing through the regulatory process and being authorized in spite of their potential to harm human and animal health and the environment.