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Independent.ie

Sunday 11 December 2016

Court ruling sparks new row on pesticides status

Sarah Collins

Published 01/12/2016 | 06:00

November 26 is the deadline for sprayer testing
November 26 is the deadline for sprayer testing

A new pesticides row has broken out in Brussels following a landmark decision by the EU’s highest court.

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Environmental activists, including Greenpeace and a Dutch bee-protection association, have won the right to access documents on pesticides authorisation by EU and Dutch authorities.

The European Court of Justice said this week that the authorities can’t block access to documents just because they might contain commercially sensitive information.

In one case, Greenpeace and the Pesticides Action Network Europe asked the Commission for files on glyphosate, the controversial weedkiller that the World Health Organization has linked to cancer in humans.

In a separate case, German pharmaceutical giant Bayer refused to hand over documents that it claimed would infringe copyright and confidentiality.

EU rules provide for public access to environmental information, including details on pesticide emissions into the air, water, soil and on to plants, the court said. Meanwhile, EU parliamentarians want to stop another weedkiller, Bentazone, from being renewed for use in the bloc after its authorisation expires next June.

The European Commission wants to renew it for a further 15 years, the maximum allowed under EU law, but MEPs say the chemical may be dangerous.

The European Food Safety Authority, in a report last year, said the chemical was “suspected of damaging the unborn child”.

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It also said key information was missing on the potential for the chemical to leak into groundwater.

In a non-binding vote last week, MEPs said the Commission should request and assess the missing information before deciding to renew the chemical.

The vote will add to the European Commission’s ongoing woes over glyphosate.

EU countries couldn’t agree on whether to reauthorise it, forcing the Commission to step in and give it the green.

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