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BfR welcomes efforts to improve pesticide legislation

06/2018, 08.02.2018

For more transparency: The examination of authorisation methods makes sense - and is about to happen

The approval processes for active substances contained in plant protection products should be improved. With the REFIT programme, the EU Commission wants to review European legislation and ensure that legal regulations are more suitable for purpose in future. With the "Special Committee for the EU approval Process of Pesticides", the European Parliament has now set up a body which can accompany this on-going process. Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), hopes that this special committee will give important impetus to the outline political conditions. "There are frequent complaints about how there is too little transparency in the scientific assessment of the active substances and the BfR has been advocating openness for years" said Hensel, referring to a successful international workshop for the harmonisation and further development of the risk assessment of plant protection products at the BfR in November 2017.

The new special committee underscores the impression that the EU Parliament can be an effective political force where the topic of pesticide approval is concerned. "The EU Parliament and EU Commission can now work with joint forces on the improvement of the European processes," says Hensel.

In order to revise plant protection product legislation, the European Union initiated the critical assessment and review of EU authorisation and approval processes for plant protection products and their active substances in November 2016 within the scope of its REFIT programme (Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme, https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/plant/docs/pesticides_refit_tor.pdf).

Along with external experts, stakeholders and scientists from authorities and scientific institutions are identifying the strengths and weaknesses of individual procedures and regulations in a transparent process. "Together with the other national and European authorities and interest groups, we have been working for quite some time now on an optimised and more efficient structuring of risk assessment," explains the BfR President. "This also involves aspects linked with the disclosure of industrial studies and the transparency of the entire assessment process".

The goal of the REFIT programme is to examine the entire legislative process of the European Union to ensure that the regulations meet the needs of citizens, businesses and public institutions in an efficient manner. It is intended to make the procedures as simple as possible, identify gaps in the regulatory process and remove unnecessary obstacles while enhancing the plausibility of the decision-making process at the same time.

In view of the wide public discussion of the possible health risks of plant protection products, the aim is to achieve greater transparency in risk assessment. The planned special committee could pick up on aspects which will improve the legislative and regulatory framework of the approval process. The BfR - and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) too - is of the opinion that original toxicological studies conducted by industry should be made available to a specialised public in the course of public consultation in order to promote transparency in assessments involving the approval and authorisation of plant protection products and their active substances. The legal regulations on this are different at the moment, however.

The BfR has been actively supporting the restructuring and evaluation of the assessment processes of European plant protection product regulation for many years. What strategies exist to ensure independent and transparent risk assessment? How can the scientific dialogue be improved between the various stakeholders? These and other questions were discussed by representatives of the EU Commission, the EFSA, the EU member states, the industry and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at a workshop on the harmonisation and further development of the risk assessment of plant protection products. The workshop was held at the BfR in Berlin on 23 and 24 November 2017. About 100 participants followed an invitation of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and the EU Commission to mainly discuss topics that triggers controversial debates within the society. The workshop was a follow-up event organised by the EU Commission in 2015.

More information on the workshop:

http://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/349/what-does-the-future-hold-for-harmonised-human-health-risk-assessment-of-plant-protection-products.pdf PDF-File (37.4 KB)

Information on the REFIT programme for plant protection products:

https://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/pesticides/refit_en

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

The BfR is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, the institute has published a jubilee brochure (in German) which can be downloaded or ordered free of charge at http://www.bfr.bund.de/de/publikation/broschueren-660.html

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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