The derogation issue

Those who claim that reports like that by the UK Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) exaggerate the likely impact of proposed changes to EU pesticides legislation often point to the existence of a derogation in the Council’s common position. This would allow the continued use for up to five years of pesticides that would otherwise be banned, if there are no alternatives available. In other words, the impact is postponed and notionally it would allow the development and registration of new products, except that this process normally takes more than five years.

However, the derogation is opposed by Green German MEP Hiltrud Breyer in her report to the European Parliament’s environment committee in which numerous changes are recommended to the common position reached at the agriculture Council in June. In particular, she wants to scrap the derogation. Her argument is that impact assessments such as that by the PSD are exaggerated, designed to create panic and flood MEPs with information (although that is surely not undesirable if the information is accurate).

In all my dealings with the PSD, I have found them to be a highly responsible, science-based, cautious (perhaps sometimes a little bit too cautious) organisation. They are all you would expect a high quality regulator to be. The report was carefully worded and responsible, although unavoidably it has to make some assumptions, given that the final form of the legislation is not yet known.

One way to resolve these different positions about possible impacts would be for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to conduct a comprehensive impact assessment. To date, the view of EFSA has not been requested. This is a little surprising given that it is a reputable body established to provide scientific advice on Community legislation on issues which have an impact on food safety.

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