In many cases EU laws are not respected at implementation level by Commission in the so-called ‘comitology’. While EU laws embrace the ‘precautionary principle’ at implementation level Commission and EU member States like to bend and twist the rules to serve other interests and spend a lot of their time developing derogations and loopholes to serve farmers. This is of course illegal and if challenged in court many pesticide approvals and derogations would be stopped.
For a very long time NGO’s were not allowed to challenge implementation decisions by Commission and we had to fight a legal battle on access to court first. This is very unfair since industry is granted access to court and has over 70 cases running on pesticides only.
By 2012 we managed to get a landmark court verdict in Luxembourg granting us access. While Commission started an appeal, it is quite certain this verdict can’t be changed anymore since EU signed the Aarhus Convention granting access to court and access to documents. In the meantime PAN-Europe started new cases, together with our allies. Below are a few highlights.
PAN-Europe has a long history on legal action. Already in 2004 we stared a case on Paraquat, a toxic and persistent pesticide. While the court still ruled our challenge as 'inadmissible' at that time, our case was taken up and won by the Kingdom of Sweden. Authorisation for paraquat was duly reversed in 2007. Paraquat is banned from that time on.
PAN-Europe and Greenpeace started three court cases on the extension of the EU approval of Glyphosate, thereby requesting the disclosure of documents including the original industry studies. In the first case, the Commission denied us access to court and referred us to Germany for the documents because Commission claimed they did’t have them. Nevertheless we appealed to European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. In the second case, we asked Germany the documentation. The Germans claimed the documents are confidential and we had no right to read them. We went to court in Braunschweig, and this court too felt that industry’s interest should prevail over the public interest. We are considering an appeal. The third case is on a concrete authorisation in the Netherlands and a court meeting is pending.
Endocrine disrupting pesticides, Prochloraz and Bifenthrin
PAN Europe and Generation Futures brought the first court case on the fungicide prochloraz which was approved in 2011 while no assessment was made by Commission on its endocrine disrupting properties. Not regarding human health nor regarding the environment. A similar case has been started on the insecticide Bifenthrin together with ClientEarth and Generations Futures. On both occasions Commission denied us access to court and refused to comment on content. It will take some time not for Luxembourg court to decide and hopefully conclude to a court meeting.
Landmark case on access to court (massive MRL-relaxation)
PAN Europe, together with Natuur en Milieu (NL) brought a suit regarding massive food standard relaxing for pesticide residues in 2008. The Commission claimed we had no right to go to court but the Luxembourg court concluded that the Commission was wrong in 2012. While the verdict was quite clear, the Commission decided to an appeal. Both NGO’s now face again a journey to Luxembourg to defend the outcome in 2012. The outcome of the appeal will not be known before 2014.
Next to the victory in 2012, the Commission now –for the very first time- had to do a review for the case on relaxing standards since their appeal doesn’t count for this case, and completely denied all of our claims. This means we have challenged this Commission decision again in the European Court of Justice– a case on content together with Natuur en Milieu.
Pilot cases on neonicotinoides
PAN Europe brought two cases on pesticides harmful to bees in the Netherlands, given the easy access to court in that country (access to court is easily granted, no lawyer needed). In 2011, a case was brought on all authorisations of Imidacloprid. The Dutch authorisation body was very slow in reacting and we decided to go directly to court. In early 2013, there will be a court hearing. A second case was on Fipronil (trademark Mundial), which is still ongoing.
Complaints at the European Ombudsman
In late 2011, a PAN Europe complaint was filed on the TTC work of the Food Authority EFSA . 10 out of 13 people who had been developing, promoting and publishing on TTC in the past, generally with industry lobby clubs, were part of an EFSA working group and supposed to do an independent assessment. EFSA had its say on the complaint of PAN Europe. We could give again our observations but Ombudsman has still not made a verdict .
A second complaint was filed by PAN Europe in late 2012 regarding the Resubmission programme of DG SANCO . On dozens of occasions, pesticides showed high risk for birds, for mammals, for bees, for water organisms, and in no case was a pesticide was banned. This means the pesticide Regulation has been violated and pesticides will continue destroying biodiversity.
In 2018, PAN Europe submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman regarding the EU science advisory mechanism (SAM), as PAN discovered that several experts that had been part of anti-regulation pressure groups or industry lobby groups had managed to get nominated to advise SAM. On March 30th 2020, the Ombudsman reached its conclusion; see PAN Europe's response.
Court cases on neonicotinoids
PAN Europe has launched early 2013 an action at EU-level to protect bees from toxic effect of neonicotinoids insecticides. The European legislation on maximum residue limits (MRLs) states that MRLs should be fixed in order to ensure high level of protection of human and animal health (Regulation 396/2005). The MRLs of neonicotinoids in honey and pollen have been fixed at 10 or 50 μg/kg, depending on the substance.
Sublethal and chronic toxicity experiments have proven adverse effects to bees at very small concentrations (less than 1 μg/kg). Therefore, PAN Europe has introduced a request to lower the setting of MRLs for honey and pollen in order to ensure a better protection of honeybees and respect the European legislation.
(Documents on the cases can be obtained from PAN-Europe.)