When I attended the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee of the European Parliament with colleagues on Monday to give evidence the question of an EU-wide impact assessment of the 91/414 revisions was again raised. The Commission response was that they had undertaken an impact assessment in 2006. However, this impact assessment is widely considered to have been insufficient.

As decision-making reaches a crucial stage in Brussels, pressure for an impact assessment is mounting from the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has urged EU policymakers to investigate how their proposals could damage European food production before negotitaions are concluded. He said in a parliamentary letter, ‘We remain concerned that the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee is continuing to press for changes which could damage agriculture and food production without meaningful benefits for health and the environment.’

Earlier this week a petition signed by 72 scientists and agronomists was presented to the European Parliament by Professor John Lucas from Rothamsted Research. It voiced concern over the rate at which crop protection products are being removed from the market. They say the resulting dependence on fewer, less effective alternative products will lead to pest resistance and accelerate damage to crops.

The decisions being discussed in the trialogue will have far reaching impacts on farmers, consumers and food security. Too often assessments only consider costs and not benefits. Of course, any full impact assessment must take account of the whole range of costs and benefits in terms of economic, social and environmental sustainability including human health. As I urged the Parliament on Monday, a credible EU institution that could undertake such an assessment exists in the form of EFSA.

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