PAN Europe Legal Action

In many cases, EU laws are not respected. The laws embrace health and the enviroment and the ‘precautionary principle. But at implementation level EU Commission and Member States like to bend and twist the rules to serve other interests. They have spent a lot of  time developing loopholes to serve the pesticide industry. This is illegal and if challenged in court many pesticide approvals could and should be stopped.

For a very long time, NGO’s were not allowed to challenge implementation decisions by the EU Commission. We had to fight a long legal battle on access to court first. Very unfair, for the industry has always had access to court in the rare cases one of their products was not allowed on the market. In the Aarhus Convention it was agreed that biodiversity should be proteacted. The way the EU had transcribed this convention into EU legislation (regulation 1367/2006/EC) seemd to exclude NGO's access to court. By 2012 we managed to get a landmark court verdict from the EU Court in Luxembourg granting us access. The EU Commission appealed and to our disbelief the Grand Chamber of the EU Court decided we had no right on access to court. Following complaints by civil society before the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, the EU Commission was obliged to revise its legislation in order to grant broader access to justice to citizens. Finally in October 2021, the EU legislation on the Aarhus regulation was amended (regulation 2021/1767/EC), giving civil society the possibility to challenge pesticide approvals at EU-level.

Early court case ends use of Paraquat in Europe

PAN-Europe has a long history of taking legal action. Already in 2004, we started a case on Paraquat, a toxic and persistent pesticide.  While the court at that time ruled our challenge as 'inadmissible', our case was taken up and won by the Kingdom of Sweden. The EU authorisation for paraquat was duly reversed in 2007. Paraquat is banned from that time on.

Landmark EU Court ruling ends widespread derogations for unauthorised pesticides

Pesticide banned by the EU were until 2023 still widely used in EU countries, using a a legal loophole for ‘emergency authorisations’. We identified 236 derogations given to 14 very dangerous pesticides by EU Member States in the last 4 years. Together with a beekeeper and our member organisation Nature & Progrés we challenged a Belgian derogation for seeds coated with banned neonicotinoids. The Belgian court agreed with our proposal to ask questions to the EU Court on the legal status of pesticide derogations. In January 2023 the European Court of Justice made an end to the abuse in a groundbreaking ruling. Antoine Bailleux, our lawyer commented: "This ruling is a huge step forward for the preservation of biodiversity in Europe. The Court of justice has made it clear that substances prohibited at EU level for health or environmental reasons cannot be introduced through the back door at Member State level, which had become common practice. It has also confirmed that the protection of health and the environment overrides the objective of improving plant production." Read more about the judgement and on the follow up

New cases since access to EU Court was granted

Legal action against Dimoxystrobin and systematic prolongation of toxic pesticides

In July 2022 PAN Europe has submitted a formal complaint to the Court of Justice of the EU. We dispute the 6th (!) extension of the approval granted to the pesticide Dimoxystrobin. This chemical is on the list of the most toxic pesticides and should have been banned years ago. With this case, PAN Europe sets out to challenge the Commission's systematic practice of granting consecutive years-long prolongations to dangerous pesticides, without any proper re-evaluation. Read more here.

Opposing the re-approval of cypermethrin, a highly hazardous pesticide

In August 2022 PAN Europe has submitted a formal complaint to the Court of Justice of the EU. With the support of the NGO Sum Of Us, we challenge the fact that the European Commission did not follow the conclusions of its scientific agency (EFSA) to ban this insecticide. Endocrine disruption, genotoxicity and extreme toxicity to aquatic life and bees were among the numerous issues highlighted by the EFSA. A considerable amount of data gaps prevented the agency from finalizing the risk assessment of the substance. Read more

Cypermethrin: Belgium's authorisation system of toxic pesticides (national court)

Fruits and vegetables grown in Belgium are frequently contaminated with residues of dangerous pesticides. These include the beekiller cypermethrin, one of the toxic twelve pesticides that should be banned immediately. We asked the EU Court to ban this active substance (see above), but the formulations containing the pesticide are authorised by national authorities. Together with Nature & Progrès Belgique and Bond Beter Leefmilieu, PAN Europe on 15 January 2023 asked the Belgian Council of State to withdraw two recent authorisations for pesticide formulations. Read more.

Abamectin: close the greenhouse loophole

This case attempts to close another loophole in the pesticide regulation: the special regime for greenhouses. The European Commission regularly re-approves pesticides that are highly toxic to human health and the environment, but restricts them to greenhouses. They pretend those are 100% closed systems while they very well know and even admit that they are not. So we challenge the reapproval for abamectin for use in greenhouses.  It is a substance classified as toxic to reproduction category 2 and with strong suspicions of genotoxicity. Read more (Dec 19, 2023)

Empty regulation on co-formulants

Co-formulants are ingredients of pesticide products to increase the toxicity of the active substance. Thousands of different co-formulant chemicals are sprayed on our food and in the environment. The pesticide industry keeps presenting co-formulants as 'inert' substances, while many of them are carcinogens or toxic to reproduction. With this new regulation, the Commission pretends it regulates co-formulants but in fact it is not. Without obliging the provision of toxicity data by the industry there will be no proper evaluation of these chemicals. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) admitted in a recent report that for more than half the co-formulants the European Commission has no information on their toxicity. Many co-formulants present a high toxicity to the environment, in particular to insects and aquatic life. We advocate a strict protection of health and the environment, with the same level of safety for co-formulants as for active substances. Read more (Dec 19, 2023)

Stop automatic prolongations of 5 active substances

In December 2023 our French member Générations Futures started court cases against the prolongation of the authorisation of 5 substances. The Toxic12 chemicals tebuconazole and chlorotoluron, the very volatile prosulfocarbe and the water polluting S-metolachlor and flufenacet (a PFAS pesicide). They are all proven to be very toxic and should have disappeared from fields and plates long ago. But during the very slow evaluation process their authorisation is prolongued year by year. A system that is already subject of the Dimoxystrobin court case mentioned above. See more information here. (in French)

 

Older cases

Court of Justice of the EU backs EU decision to restrict neonicotinoids, based on the precautionary principle

In 2021 the European Court of Justice confirmed that the European Commission was entitled to ban the use of neonics on bee-attractive crops. This case was launched by Bayer, appeling the decision by the European Commission to impose restrictions to imidacloprid and clothianidin neonicotinoid insecticides in 2013. PAN Europe and other NGOs intervened in the case. The EU Court backed the use of the precautionary principle and that, even in case of uncertainty, the European Commission was entitled to make such restrictions. Read more here.

Transparency on dangerous endocrine disrupting chemicals

In 2016 PAN Europe won a legal case at the European Court of Justice against DG Trade of the EU Commission, for refusing to provide access to documents with information on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The case by PAN was supported by Sweden. Read more here.

Transparancy on Glyphosate authorisation

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 not have them. Nevertheless, we appealed to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. In the second case, we asked Germany for 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 the industry’s interest should prevail over the public interest. The case was finally won when the EU Commission decided in 2017 in reaction to the succesful European Citizens Initiative Ban Glyphosate to give access to the studies. However, this did not happen and Green EU politicians took up and won the case in EU Court in 2020.

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 the 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.
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 neonicotinoids

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 work of the Food Authority EFSA. Ten out of thirteen 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 has since changed it's policy, also after outrage from both the public and MEPs.
A second complaint was filed by PAN Europe in late 2012 regarding the Resubmission programme of DG SANCO. On dozens of occasions, pesticides showed a high risk for birds, mammals, bees, for water organisms, and in no case 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 the EU level to protect bees from the toxic effect of neonicotinoids insecticides. The European legislation on maximum residue limits (MRLs) states that MRLs should be fixed to ensure a 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 on bees at very small concentrations (less than 1 μg/kg). Therefore, PAN Europe requested to lower the setting of MRLs for honey and pollen to ensure better protection of honeybees and respect the European legislation.

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Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN Europe) gratefully acknowledges the financial support from the European Union, European Commission, DG Environment, LIFE programme. Sole responsibility for this publication lies with the authors and the funders are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.