Righting a

flawed process

IT'S QUITE worrying that only now, after years of political interference, that there are moves afoot to include the industry in the EU decision-making process that rules on whether pesticides, fungicides and herbicides can be used – and for how long.

Even the EU accepts now that its process of licensing and re-licensing of products is flawed and open to abuse by partisan elements, which if they can't get their way, use stalling methods to hold up the process. It's a process which has blatantly passed cost on to the industry by holding up research into new chemistry by discouraging companies from doing so as a result of the expense involved.

Glyphosate is a clear example of how manipulation by politicians can muddy waters which previously ran clear when put under the microscope of scientific testing and peer review.

We came close to losing what is the world's most important herbicide. It's cheap and it works, and it would have been a huge financial burden on the industry were it not available. Newer chemicals will invariably cost more.

Add to that, that any new chemistry's long-term 'side effects' are not known and will take years to appear if they happen, meaning the industry becomes a guinea pig on an industrial scale for products which have longevity unproven. Meanwhile we know, for fact, that glyphosate has been around long enough to have proven itself safe.

The upshot of all this is that we have a train crash of disease and pestilence waiting to happen – if it hasn't already.

Some chemistry has already been lost, most noticeably neonicotinoid seed treatments which have been useful allies in the safe production of oilseed rape and other brassicas. While it is now accepted that neonic sprays can affect honey bee populations, the evidence says that seed treatments are environmentally safe.

Only now, has the European Parliament adopted the mandate of a special committee to look into the EU’s authorisation procedure for pesticides following 'concerns over EU glyphosate risk assessment'. It will look at 'potential failures and conflicts of interest' – that's Euro-speak for we have a known problem.

This 'special committee' of 30 members will deliver a final report of its factual findings and recommendations to the full parliament. Already it seems it is trying to get tough, as it emerged this week this committee came about because of the release of the so-called 'Monsanto Papers' – internal documents from the company which owned and first produced glyphosate that shed doubt on the credibility of some studies used in the EU evaluation on glyphosate safety.

The EU’s authorisation procedure, including the scientific evaluation of substances 'should be based only on published, peer-reviewed and independent studies commissioned by competent public authorities' it now states. Pity this has happened after the horse has bolted!