THE FOX CONTINUES IN CHARGE OF THE HENHOUSE Pesticide industry involvement in EU risk assessment
In 2010 Bee Life and Corporate Europe Observatory published a report showing how industry “experts” were undermining the EU review of the regulations of pesticides and putting Europe’s bee population further at risk. Seven years later no real evolution happened.
Indeed, some steps in the good directions have come from the EFSA. In 2012, the Authority published a scientific opinion pointing at the inadequacy of the methods used to evaluate the danger of pesticides on bees. These methods had been historically defined by a group of experts formed by pesticide industry, the Bee Protection Group of ICPPR, who found no interest in improving them.
One year later, in 2013, the EFSA proposed new guidance to run risk assessment based on the findings of the scientific opinion. Unfortunately, pesticide industry was not ready to accept a methodology in which they did not have influence, and they have been fighting against its implementation ever since.
In parallel, pesticide companies have been extremely active in developing or validating methodologies proposed in the guidance document of the EFSA, specially for wild bee species. They use several forums to promote their ideas, approaches and criteria, like the ICPPR or SETAC. The risk assessors responsible for pesticide evaluation also participate to these meetings. Their lobby has been so efficient that EU Member States have not yet accepted these methodologies, not even part of them. EU Member States prefer to authorize pesticides with uncertain impact on our pollinators.
Last week another meeting of the ICPPR was held in Valencia, Spain. Here again industry profited to undermine the guidance proposed by the EFSA and pushed for criteria very favourable for their products, but incompatible with bees’ survival. In this occasion, they proposed to consider good for bee health the loss of 20% of the bees of the colony following an application of a pesticide. At a human scale, this could be compared to lose both arms, for example.
Today, while pesticide industry has done its homework to be ready to dismantle any argument favourable to a better protection of pollinators from their products, public administration has done little to raise independent scientific data to improve the evaluation of the impact of pesticides on bees. As a consequence, the methodological proposals of groups with a clear conflict of interest are the only ones available to test the toxicological effects of pesticides on bees.
Francesco Panella, President of Bee Life, said: “No one can stop pesticide industry defending their interest and doing their marketing. What we find unacceptable is that risk assessors and decision makers, civil servants payed by us to ensure our safety, accept test designed or validated by the chemical industries. All these years and industry continue being allowed to set its own rules. Not surprisingly the result continues to be disastrous for European bee populations.”
ICPPR – International Committee of Plant Pollinator Relationship
SETAC - Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry