The European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) Group of Chief Scientific Advisors has published a new independent scientific opinion on the EU’s authorisation processes of Plant Protection Products (PPPs).
At the request of Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, the scientific advisors examined the question: "Could the current EU dual system for approval and authorisation of plant protection products be rendered more effective, efficient and transparent, and if so, how could this be achieved?"
In this dual system, the main ingredient of a PPP (the ‘active substance’) is scientifically assessed at EU level, while PPP products as a whole (which include other ingredients) are assessed and authorised for sale at the level of one or more Member States.
The recommendations in the opinion are informed by an accompanying Evidence Review Report produced by the SAPEA (Scientific Advice for Policy by European Academies) consortium.
- How legislation can balance legitimate aspirations for ‘no harm’ with the goal of improving agricultural production while using PPP. The scientific advisors emphasise the importance of clearly communicating that all scientific assessments contain some degree of uncertainty, that zero risk is impossible to ensure, and that even non-use confers risk;
- How to make the current dual system more effective and efficient, in particular related to who does what, their capacity to do so, how data are shared and how divergent opinions can be addressed; and
- How to keep abreast of new science: new tools; new types of PPPs; and the ability to assess mixtures, aggregate exposure, and landscape-scale environmental effects.
Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said:
Food safety is non-negotiable for Europeans and a priority for the Commission. I am grateful to the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors and the SAPEA experts for the evidence based recommendations in this opinion. They aim to maintain and enhance our very high standards of food safety and environmental protection and to re-establish trust in scientific risk assessment.
The report recommends improvements in a number of areas:
- Clarity of protection goals and improvement of their communication;
- Improvement of organisation and operation of the EU PPP system;
- Implementation of systematic post-market vigilance;
- Securing and strengthening scientific knowledge and capacity in risk assessment; Improved guidance, oversight and transparency of pre-market studies;
- Re-examination of the treatment of hazards, risks, costs and benefits; and
- Augmentation of mechanisms to resolve divergent scientific assessments.
The advisors also call for a dialogue on an EU-wide, shared vision of how citizens want their food to be produced, including the role of PPPs, while endorsing the EU’s efforts to achieve a more sustainable use of pesticides.
Commissioner Andriukaitis said:
I will look closely at these recommendations, which contribute to our Regulatory Fitness examination of Plant Protection Products' legislation. This opinion helps us in our continued efforts to provide the highest standards of protection for human and animal health, and the environment while producing safe, nutritious and affordable food in a sustainable way.
On 7 June, the Scientific Advisors will present this opinion to the European Parliament during a hearing of the special committee on authorisation procedures for pesticides in the European Union (PEST).
The Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) was established in October 2015 to support the Commission with high quality, timely and independent scientific advice for its policy-making activities. Its Group of Chief Scientific Advisors comprises up to seven independent eminent scientists, appointed in their personal capacity. This is the fifth Scientific Opinion the Scientific Advisors have delivered, in addition to two Explanatory Notes. The Scientific Advisors began their work on this opinion in March 2017 following a request from Commissioner Andriukaitis.
The evidence, knowledge and expertise informing the opinion spans toxicology, environmental and social sciences, and also incorporates regulatory perspectives. Work on the opinion addressed the transparency, effectiveness and efficiency of the EU dual system, but also risk perception and communication, and considerations for more appropriate and sustainable use of pesticides. Although this opinion focuses primarily on agricultural use of PPPs, most of its findings are also relevant to non-agricultural use, for example in parks and gardens. Though different in scope, there is alignment between corresponding sections of this opinion and the Commission’s recent proposal for the revision of the General Food Law.
4 June 2018