Select Committee on European Scrutiny Second Report


COM(01) 444

Report from the Commission on the evaluation of the active substances of plant protection products.

Legal base:
Document originated: 25 July 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 26 July 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 12 September 2001
Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: EM of 19 September 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


42.1 Council Directive 91/414/EEC[98] deals with the placing of plant protection products on the market, and sets out a harmonised Community framework for their authorisation, use and control. This operates on a dual basis, under which the Commission evaluates active substances, and identifies those acceptable for the environment and human and animal health, whilst Member States evaluate and authorise the placing on national markets of the products containing them, according to a uniform set of risk assessment principles and criteria. The Directive provided for a 12 year programme of evaluation of the 834 "existing" active substances already on the market at the time of its entry into force in July 1993, and, pending decisions whether they can be classified as an acceptable substance, it permitted their remaining on the market until July 2003 under certain conditions. Similar evaluations were to be carried out in parallel on "new" substances presented since July 1993.

42.2 The Directive also required the Commission to present by July 2001 a progress report on the evaluation of these substances, in which it was envisaged that there might in some cases need to be an extension of the 12 year programme. The present document comprises the Commission's review, in which it has also highlighted a number of problematic areas in the operation of the Directive to be addressed in any future amendment.

The current document

42.3 The Commission says that the 834 existing substances were divided into four lists, as follows:

  • The first priority list of 90 substances, established in 1992, comprising those considered to be most widely used on the market, as well as those of clear concern

    The Commission says that all of these have caused problems at some stage of the evaluation process, but that, although that phase is not yet complete, final decisions are expected to have been taken by July 2003. At present, 13 products have been authorised as safe, 16 have been withdrawn from the market, final discussions are in hand on 39, and 21 are undergoing peer review (in one case, an assessment has yet to be submitted).
  • A second list of 149 substances, comprising all organophosphates and carbamates not on the first list, together with other substances of concern and for which the necessary information was available

    The Commission says that, although no formal decisions have been taken on these, it is clear that at least 89 should be withdrawn from the market in July 2003, but that it will be necessary to extend this deadline until 2005 for the remaining 60 to allow detailed evaluations to take place.
  • A third list, comprising the 402 remaining chemical substances, also considered as pesticides but not as widely used as those on the second list

    The Commission says that, on the information available so far, it seems clear that at least 235 of these should be withdrawn from the market in July 2003, but that derogations enabling Member States to continue authorisations until 2008 will be required for about 150 substances.
  • A fourth list, established by default, comprising the 193 remaining substances identified as of less concern and for which other data requirements might apply (including microbial pesticides, substances already included in foodstuffs, plant extracts, animal products, substances used in organic farming, rodenticides, storage products and commodity chemicals)

    The Commission says that, whilst these are conventionally viewed as being of less concern, some are widely used in the Community. 27 of these are no longer authorised in any Member State, and although some are expected to be withdrawn from the market in 2003, any many as 166 may need to be evaluated between 2005 and 2008.

42.4 According to the Commission, this means that, by July 2003, decisions will have been taken on about 380 substances, mainly involving their withdrawal from the market, leaving decisions to be taken on the remaining substances between 2003 and 2008.

42.5 The Commission says that there are a number of reasons why progress has been slower than anticipated. These include the need for extensive data for priority item pesticides, the need to demonstrate that all uses of existing substances are safe, and the conscious decision taken to work by consensus. It stresses that any new area of concern giving rise to new data requirements could also lead to delay, and that the timetable now envisaged depends upon the necessary resources, structures and procedures being available. It is therefore proposing procedural changes in the presentation and evaluation of dossiers, and that increased resources should be made available to it and to the European Food Agency.

The Government's view

42.6 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 19 September 2001, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty) says that the UK believes that the framework of Directive 91/414/EEC is basically sound, and should be maintained, but that experience has demonstrated the need both for a strengthening of resources and changes to the Directive in a number of key areas. He adds that, although a great deal of underpinning technical work has been completed, it is quite clear that the programme cannot be completed by the 2003 target date. The UK therefore supports the Commission proposal that the review should be extended to 2008, which the Minister says is a "challenging but realistic" target.

42.7 He also says that the Government will press the Commission to bring forward a number of amendments to the Directive, under which Member States would be given a flexible charging power to recover all the costs they incur in evaluating substances, all data on pesticides (apart from limited types having to be to kept confidential for commercial reasons) would be put in the public domain, and there would be greater public participation in the authorisation process. In addition, the Minister points out that a large number of compounds will be lost through lack of commercial support as a result of the Community review, particularly in the horticultural sector, where pesticide sales often do not justify the high costs involved in supporting a compound. In view of this, the UK would support an initiative which the Commission is considering to allow a small number of essential uses to be maintained beyond 2003 to allow alternatives to be sought.


42.8 Although this document is simply a report by the Commission, and contains no legislative proposals as such, it does nevertheless deal with an important and sensitive area of public policy. We are therefore, while clearing it, drawing its findings to the attention of the House, particularly as regards the slippage in the timetable originally envisaged for reviewing these products, the reasons for this delay, and the steps which the Commission intends to take in order to complete that process as quickly as possible.

98   OJ No. L 230, 19.8.91, p.1. Back

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