NGOs challenge EU’s decision to reapprove use of glyphosate

26 January 2024 | Muriel Cozier

European authorities deemed not to have complied with EU law and case law.

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe, along with five other NGOs, has officially launched a legal challenge to the European Commission’s decision to renew the approval of glyphosate for another ten years.

During the final quarter of 2023 the Commission decided to renew the use of glyphosate, a broad spectrum herbicide, based on ‘comprehensive safety assessments carried out by the European Food Safety Authority, and the European Chemicals Agency together with EU Member States.’ However, the NGO’s said that the reapproval ‘directly contradicts the findings of numerous independent scientists who have researched the impacts of glyphosate.’

Taking the first step in the legal challenge, PAN Europe and its partners submitted a Request for Internal Review to the European Commission on the 24th January. The Review Request pointed to studies that the NGOs said had been overlooked during the approval process. These studies showed elevated cancer risk, a high mortality among insects, and major impacts on brain and gene function stemming from the use of glyphosate. The NGOs cited a new scientific study confirming that the long-term exposure of rats to acceptable doses of a representative glyphosate formulation can lead to the development of blood cancers.

The NGOs also identified a number of regulatory practices where they assert that the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority, and the European Chemicals Agency did not comply with EU law and case law.

‘We are dismayed by the incredible number of breaches of EU law. Scientific evidence on the important toxicity of glyphosate on health and the environment was not correctly communicated to the Commission by the EFSA and ECHA…The Commission reapproved glyphosate despite the available information on its toxicity and the numerous data gaps. This should have led to a ban,’ said Angeliki Lyssimachou, Head of Science and Policy at PAN Europe.

The legal arguments cover several areas including the presentation of incomplete dossiers amounting to the ‘cherry picking of science,’ an EU assessment discarding non-industry studies, some of which indicate genotoxicity, and the impact glyphosate has on the microbiomes of humans, birds, bees and other species, as the compound has been patented as an antibiotic agent.

Responding to the news of the legal challenge, the Glyphosate Renewal Group, a consortium of eight companies which submitted dossiers supporting the routine renewal of glyphosate use in the EU said: ‘The GRG followed the process, and while not all public literature articles passed the prescribed evaluation, all the original search results are listed and documented by the GRG in the scientific dossier in a dedicated Literature Review Report (LRR). In these LRR documents, the GRG’s public literature search, selection, and evaluation process of the more than 12,000 retrieved scientific articles are transparently described in detail, and all search results are documented and are available for authority and public view.’

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