In April, the European Parliament gave its assent to changes to how safety studies for pesticide active substances and other food additives are carried out.
The new rules will mean that studies submitted by chemical manufacturers on the safety of their products will be made public automatically earlier in the process unless businesses can prove that disclosing the information would harm their competitiveness.
The changes also give the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – the independent body that reviews these studies and makes recommendations on safety – a greater budget. Furthermore, it gives EFSA and European Commission the power to commission their own safety studies if they deem it appropriate.
The changes, triggered by the controversy over the reauthorisation of the active substance glyphosate, have been welcomed as positive step to greater transparency by all EU institutions, as well as environmental groups and the European pesticide manufacturers themselves.
However, during the reform process concerns were raised that the changes could lead to reluctance for manufacturers to bring new products to market for fear of having to reveal sensitive information to competitors as well as lengthening and adding cost to the process.
If this turns out to be the case, this could mean fewer plant protection products on the market for farmers and less innovation.