Authorisation of pesticides in the EU: With a focus on glyphosate

Briefing 01-02-2018

In the European Union, plant protection products, often referred to as 'pesticides', are subject to a dual approval process: active substances are approved at European Union (EU) level, provided they meet a number of criteria. Commercial plant protection products containing one or more active substances are subsequently authorised at Member State level if they satisfy certain conditions. A controversy has emerged since 2015 over the renewal of the approval of glyphosate. One of the active substances most commonly found in broad-spectrum herbicides in the world, glyphosate is mainly used in agriculture. The controversy started as a result of diverging assessments of its carcinogenicity: the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans, while the European Food Safety Authority found it unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans. The European Chemicals Agency later concluded that glyphosate did not classify as a carcinogen. Several national authorities outside the EU also came to the same conclusion. The European Commission eventually renewed the approval of glyphosate for five years in December 2017. The views of stakeholders and Member States on the topic have been strongly divided. The European Parliament has called for phasing out all uses of glyphosate by the end of 2022. Parliament is expected to vote, in February 2018, on the creation of a special committee on the Union's authorisation procedure for pesticides.