News 2016 / December

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The Commission wants EDC agreement for Christmas, but fails to address serious concerns

The Commission has for the second time updated its proposed criteria for endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The changes were made available to Member States in the beginning of December and the Commission has scheduled meetings with the standing committees for pesticides and biocides already on December 21. For the pesticides meeting there is room in the agenda for a vote, meaning that there is a possibility of having an agreement among Member States before Christmas.

“We understand that the Commission would like to close this before Christmas, but we urge Member States not to rush into a decision now that would fail to protect future generations”, says Dr Anna Lennquist, ChemSec toxicologist.

The new draft proposal still fails to address serious concerns raised by several Member States, scientists and NGOs. The burden of proof remains too high and the controversial change in the pesticides derogation from a hazard based to a risk based approach remains. In addition, a new loophole regarding non-target organisms has been introduced (read more about this in an excellent analysis by CHEMTrust).

The NGO Client Earth as well as representatives for the EU parliament have concluded earlier that the suggested changes in the pesticides derogations are illegal. Sweden also recently made a legal analysis, concluding that “the Commission is exceeding its authority by proposing changes in policy matters and that this cannot be justified either by considering issues specific to the Plant Protection Products Regulation and even by comparing it with similar regulations”.

While the Commission has claimed in communication with EU Member States that this suggested change is for the protection of human health and the environment, recently published articles show that in meetings with US, Canada and Argentina, the Commission has instead presented this as a solution to address trade concerns raised by these countries. The influence by trade interests and industry on the criteria development has been well described in a series of articles in Le Monde (English translation available here)

The work of the Commission and their “manipulation of science” has also been heavily criticised by independent scientists comparing it to climate denial and tobacco lobbyism:

“We believe it is no longer acceptable to remain silent. As scientists we have an obligation to participate in the debate and to inform the public. We see it as our responsibility to express the implications of our work for society and for future generations and to draw attention to the serious risks we face. The stakes are high, and political action to stem exposures to endocrine disruptors and to the consequences of greenhouse gases emissions is urgently needed.”

“Obviously this process has been controversial, dirty and paved with scandals. However I still believe that the political process is capable of delivering decent scientific criteria in line with the WHO definition, the CLP regulation and the founding principles of EU chemicals regulation, even if not in 2016”, Dr Lennquist concludes.

While awaiting the criteria development for the regulation of pesticides and biocides EDCs are being identified through REACH and placed on the candidate list. It was just announced that ECHA member state committee has agreed to place two new substances on the candidate list based on their endocrine disrupting properties for the environment.

In addition ECHA and EFSA have already started the work with guidance documents for identification of EDCs based on the not yet agreed criteria.