The US and the EU are currently negotiating a free-trade agreement ©BELGA/AFP/G.Gobet 

The EU has always tended to be more cautious about approving new products than the US, which is why the two regions have clashed over issues such as GMOs and hormones in beef. Now that they are negotiating an ambitious free-trade agreement, the question is whether the EU should become less prudent. However, MEPs warned against this at a meeting on the treaty on 11 February organised by the legal affairs committee, saying it would be opposed by Europeans concerned about their health

During the hearing experts said the difference in approach between the EU and the US was not as big as people thought. However, MEPs spoke out against an approach based purely on scientific studies. Françoise Castex, a French member of the S&D who is responsible for following the negotiations on behalf of the Parliament,  pointed out that scientific tests are not always able to identify all the possible risks, as was the case with asbestos. “We have to remember that we shouldn’t go more quickly than citizens can accept.”

Joseph Burke, regulatory, trade and consumer affairs officers at the US mission to the EU in Brussels, commented: “Regulatory decisions should be based on the best available science and if the science isn’t understood, it’s the obligation of those who are making decisions to explain the science to the citizens they are representing.”