Leading MEP wants to quiz pesticide firms on withheld toxicity studies
Head of the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), Pascal Canfin, wants a hearing with agrochemical giants Bayer and Syngenta after researchers accused them of withholding information on the brain toxicity risk of pesticides.
In a study published on Thursday (1 June) in the Environmental Health journal, researchers found that the companies did not disclose several studies on the brain toxicity of some of their pesticides to competent EU authorities.
Safety assessments of pesticides and other plant protection products (PPP) in the EU rely heavily on studies commissioned by the products’ producers, which are obliged to pass on all results to EU agencies, notably the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
But the researchers found that out of 35 studies the companies had submitted to US authorities, nine were not disclosed to the EU, even though most of them would have had “an actual or potential regulatory impact.”
In response to the accusations, environment committee chair Canfin announced on Friday (2 June) that he will push for the European Parliament to take action.
“To address this potential cheating by Bayer and Syngenta regarding the toxicity of certain pesticides, I will propose next week to organise a public hearing of the researchers and these companies before the Environment Committee of the European Parliament,” the French liberal lawmaker said on Twitter.
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Such a hearing would have to be approved by the environment committee’s coordinators, likely during a Thursday (8 June) meeting.
The study concludes that “non-disclosure of DNT studies to EU authorities, despite clear legal requirements, seems to be a recurring phenomenon” and “may introduce a bias in the regulatory risk assessment.”
Therefore, the authors suggest that EU agencies cross-check their data sets with third countries’ authorities.
In the researchers’ view, the results also point to weaknesses in how the EU assesses whether plant protection products are safe – notably, the assessment process relies mainly on studies from producers.
“Rules should be amended so that future studies should be commissioned by authorities rather than companies,” they write.
EU agencies’ perceived reliance on industry studies has been faced with criticism in the past, including when it comes to the risk assessment for the contentious herbicide glyphosate.
Health and environment campaigners and several lawmakers have repeatedly said that EFSA and ECHA focus too much on studies commissioned by the agrochemicals industry and do not consider sufficient independent research.
Bayer and Syngenta, meanwhile, rejected the accusations.
A Bayer spokesperson told AFP the company had “always submitted the necessary studies that were required by the EU regulations at the time,” while Syngenta said it had “complied with all EU and Swiss data requests.”
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