As one of the world's most widely used herbicides, associated with one of the world's most hated corporations - Monsanto, glyphosate has been an excellent entry point into debate on the regulation of pesticides in the EU. We took part in a press conference on this issue on 02/03/16. You can find a list of our publications on this at the end of this text.
These are the main problems:
- EU legislation on pesticides is inadequate: it only requires individual substances to be assessed whereas in the real world products are always used in mixtures;
- Opacity of the process: 80% of national experts who took part in EFSA's peer review refused to be identified, meaning it was not possible to know whether the authors of the EU risk assessment were independent from relevant economic and political interests (national agencies have very different independence policies);
- No data transparency;
- Root problem: producers test their products themselves (or pay commercial labs to do it) and send the results to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Of course no study indicating serious harm ever reaches public regulators in such a system;
- The high cost of these studies has been transformed by industry into an argument to prevent disclosure - these studies would contain and themselves be "trade secrets". CEO is currently appealing to EFSA to obtain three studies that are at the very center of its disagreement with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), or at least elements of them, but the problem is that industry is threatening to sue the agency if it discloses elements in these studies that it considers as trade secrets. Because they're secret, double-checking is impossible.
This last point is perhaps the most serious problem as it does not allow independent scientific scrutiny, the cornerstone of scientific methodology. Whether you think glyphosate should be banned from the EU market or kept on it, this prevents any serious examination of the evidence behind the decision. It is also very easy to dress up a political decision as evidence-based in such a context. As this is directly relevant, we strongly urge MEPs to reject the Trade Secrets Directive as it would give companies additional (in particular) financial arguments to oppose disclosure in court.
We join the calls to ban glyphosate in the EU as an application of the precautionary principle. There is sufficiently strong data that indicates the possibility of harm. EU citizens should not bear the cost of threats to their health pending the resolution of scientific uncertainties while industry feeds the scientific controversy to buy itself marketing time. Another, different reason would be that wide-spectrum herbicides themselves should no longer be sold to everyone in an age of mass biological extinction. There are smarter and less future-endangering ways to grow food today than green deserts.
Main CEO publications on the EU glyphosate relicensing process (most recent first):
- Key evidence withheld as 'trade secret' in EU's controversial risk assessment of glyphosate
- EU review of weedkiller glyphosate adds secrecy to controversy
- EFSA and Member States vs. IARC on Glyphosate: Has Science Won?
- The Glyphosate Saga, & “independent scientific advice” according to Germany, the UK & France