The EU’s legislative body political leaders have decided to set up a special committee to look into the EU’s authorisation procedure for pesticides, while the decision awaits vote on the mandate during the 5-8 February plenary session of the European Parliament.

The special committee is a response to concerns raised about the risk posed by the herbicide substance glyphosate, the substance  that was granted approval of renewal just for 5 years, after the European Commission’s initial failure to pass 15 and 10-year old renewal proposals via the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCOPAFF) at the very last minute, less than a month away from the license expiration.

The Special Committee on PPPs (Plant Protection Products) that was voted in today by the Conference of Presidents  is to assess the authorisation procedure for pesticides in the EU; potential failures in how substances are scientifically evaluated and approved; the role of the European Commission in renewing the glyphosate licence; possible conflicts of interest in the approval procedure; and the role of EU agencies, and whether they are adequately staffed and financed to fulfil their obligations.

According to the European Parliament, the term of the special committee is to be nine months from its first meeting. The committee is expected to meet for the first time in March. It was back in October when the European a resolution voted in October, Parliament stated that the release of the so-called ‘Monsanto Papers’, internal documents from the company which owns and produces Roundup, of which glyphosate is the main active substance, shed doubt on the credibility of some studies used in the EU evaluation on glyphosate safety.

The move was welcomed by MEPs from several political groups. According to the EPP’s Angélique Delahaye, the European Parliament was “behaving responsibly” in setting up the committee. However, she noted that the environment committee had the tools to look at this issue.

S&D group Vice-Chair Kathleen Van Brempt said that the Monsanto scandal unveiled how the multinational company tried to influence the outcome of scientific reports so that the licence of the controversial pesticide would be renewed. “This is unacceptable and we will get to the bottom of it.”

Ska Keller, Philippe Lamberts, as co-Chairs of Parliament’s Greens/EFA group, said in a statement that through this committee, their group will seek “to analyse the failings in the process that led to the renewal of the authorisation of glyphosate.”

The European Crop Protection Association (EPCA) also welcomed the establishment of the PPP Committee. “We hope that its conclusions will show how rigorous and stringent the pesticide approval process is as well as bringing much needed objectivity to what has become a very emotional debate,” a EPCA spokesperson told New Europe, asking from this Special Committee to “rely on hard evidence rather than the fear and innuendo that drove the debate on glyphosate.”

“Science is not static and we recognise there are areas for improvement in the current system. We can and should always strive to do things better,” adds EPCA, standing ready to cooperate with the new committee.