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Food agency must reveal glyphosate studies: EU Court

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Food agency must reveal glyphosate studies: EU Court

Crop spraying

(LUXEMBOURG) - The EU's top Court annulled Thursday decisions by the EU food agency EFSA to refuse access to studies on the toxicity and carcinogenicity of the pesticide glyphosate, which the World Health Organisation has linked to cancer.

The confidential studies were at the heart of EFSA's favourable assessment of glyphosate, which led to the pesticide's approval in the EU in 2018, despite a warning by the World Health Organisation linking it to cancer.

EFSA had denied access to studies and information requested by toxicologist Anthony C. Tweedale and by Members of the European Parliament Heidi Hautala, Michèle Rivasi, Benedek Javor and Bart Staes.

The agency justified its refusal on the grounds that disclosure of the requested information could have harmed the commercial and financial interests of the companies which had submitted the studies and that there was no overriding interest supporting the disclosure.

In its judgement, the General Court found EFSA's decision to be in breach of EU rules on transparency.

It said the public interest in having access to the information relating to emissions into the environment is specifically to know not only what is, or foreseeably will be, released into the environment, but also to understand the way in which the environment could be affected by the emissions in question.

Specifically, in its ruling the Court stated, firstly, that the interest in public access to information which relates to the release of chemicals into the environment overrides the protection of commercial interests.

Secondly, the Court recognised that by its use, glyphosate is intended to be discharged into the environment. Therefore, according to the Court "its foreseeable emissions cannot, therefore, be regarded as purely hypothetical. In any event, glyphosate emissions cannot be classified as merely foreseeable emissions." In particular, according to the Court, glyphosate emissions into the environment are a reality, since the active substance "is present particularly as residues in plants, water and food."

Finally the Court decided that "the public must have access not only to information on emissions as such, but also to information concerning the medium to long-term consequences of those emissions on the state of the environment, such as the effects of those emissions on non-targeted organisms. The public interest in accessing information on emissions into the environment is specifically to know not only what is, or foreseeably will be, released into the environment, but also to understand the way in which the environment could be affected by the emissions in question."

The ruling was welcomed by environmental organisation Greenpeace. "Today's judgement is a big step towards transparency and accountability in EU decision-making," said its food policy director Franziska Achterberg: "People have the right to know the foreseeable health and environmental impacts of EU decisions on products like pesticides, and the Court has vindicated this right. It is shocking that EFSA needed to be reminded in court that its mission is to defend public health, not to protect the commercial interest of glyphosate's manufacturers."

Judgment in Cases T-716/14 - Anthony C. Tweedale v European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and T-329/17 Hautala and Others v EFSA


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