Evaluation of pesticides challenged before the Court of Justice of the European Union

  October 16, 2017

This post by Guillaume Tumerelle, a lawyer for volunteer reapers, was published on his href=”http://www.avocats-tumerelle.fr/2017/10/12/levaluation-des-pesticides-remises-en-cause-devant-la-cour-de-justice-de-lunion-europeenne/”>blog .

We represent activists from the volunteer reapers’ collective who are being sued before the Foix Correctional Court for neutralizing glyphosate-based herbicide cans in various supermarkets. The activists had painted the cans to make them unsaleable. They were prosecuted before the Tribunal for damage to the property of others in a meeting and could face up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros.

For the defence of voluntary reapers, we have chosen among other arguments to raise the illegality of European texts providing for an inadequate method of evaluating pesticides before they are placed on the market. We asked the “Tribunal correctionnel de Foix” to refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union, the highest judicial body, in order to question it on the validity of European legislation with regard to the precautionary principle. We felt that many recent scientific publications have demonstrated the existence of risks associated with glyphosate and especially co-formulants, which are insufficiently analysed before they are placed on the market. In particular, Glyphosate has been classified as a probable carcinogen by IARC, which is an agency of the World Health Organization.

Contrary to all expectations, prosecutor Karine BOUISSET followed our position and requested at the correctional hearing of August 17,2017 to refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The decision was reserved at the October 12,2017 hearing.

On October 12, 2017, the “Tribunal correctionnel de Foix” resumed our requests and asked the European Court of Justice to refer four questions to it. In summary, the questions concern the validity of methods for evaluating pesticides (glyphosate or other), the fact that only the active ingredient is analysed, the absence of analysis of the “cocktail effect” produced by the combination of several molecules and which multiplies the toxic effect of a pesticide product, and the absence of sufficient analyses of the finished product as marketed.

The four questions are as follows:

1 / Is the European regulation in line with the precautionary principle when it fails to define precisely what an active substance is, leaving the petitioner to choose what it describes as an active substance in his product, and leaving the petitioner the possibility of directing the entirety of his application dossier to a single active substance when his finished product contains several active substances?

2/ Are the precautionary principle and the impartiality of marketing authorisation guaranteed when the tests, analyses and evaluations necessary for the examination of the file are carried out solely by the obviously partial petitioners in their presentation, without any independent counter-analysis, and by not publishing their reports on applications for authorisation under cover of industrial secrecy?

3/ Is the European regulation in conformity with the precautionary principle when it takes no account of the plurality of active substances and their cumulative effect? In particular when it does not provide for any specific, comprehensive analysis at European level of the cumulations of active substances within the same product?

4/ Is the European regulation in conformity with the precautionary principle when it dispenses in its chapters 3 and 4 with toxicity analyses (genotoxicity, examination of carcinogenicity, examination of endocrine disruption…), pesticide products in their commercial formulations as placed on the market and as consumers and the environment are exposed to them, imposing only summary tests always carried out by the petitioner?

This decision by the “Tribunal correctionnel de Foix” will make it possible to call into question European legislation and its shortcomings in the evaluation of pesticide products, not only for highly criticized glyphosate, but also for other pesticides that are marketed on the basis of the same regulation.

The file is therefore taking a European turn and could have a decisive impact on the applicable legislation.