The European Commission on December 12 adopted a Communication to respond to the European Citizens’ Initiative “Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides”.

This comes after European Union member states on November 27 cleared the use of glyphosate – a controversial herbicide – for the next five years.

“It’s great that well over a million EU citizens have invested their time to engage directly on an issue that matters,” said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans. “The Commission has listened and will now act.”

According to Timmermans, there is a need for more transparency about how decisions are made in this area. This is why the Commission will also deliver proposals on drinking water in response to another successful Initiative.

“In sum, I am a strong supporter of the right of citizens to engage in this manner and am pressing the Parliament and Council to make speedy progress on our proposals to make it easier for European Citizens’ Initiatives to be successful in the future,” he said.

In turn, Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “From the beginning of my mandate I have been a strong supporter of increased transparency in decision-making as well as in the terms of access to the scientific studies underlying the approval of active substances. I will put forward a proposal to address these issues by spring 2018.”

However, Andriukaitis also stressed that it is equally important that member states assume their responsibility when it comes to the authorisation of pesticides in their own markets.

“They must also ensure that pesticides are used sustainably and in full compliance with label requirements. Transparency, independence, and sustainable use of pesticides are our objectives. They should underpin our work and this is where my focus will be.”

As for the December 12 Communication, it announces a legislative proposal for spring 2018 to enhance the transparency, quality and independence of scientific assessments of substances, such as public access to raw data. It also announces future amendments to the legislation to strengthen the governance of the conduct of relevant studies, which could include for example the involvement of public authorities in the process of deciding which studies need to be conducted for a specific case.

On the preparation of a legislative proposal, a Fitness Check of General Food Law will be published in January 2018 in preparation of the proposal to be presented by spring 2018.