Join the campaign to remove chemicals from the EU-US trade talks
The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) are today launching a campaign call via a new website and Twitter account. The campaign aims to ensure that the EU-US trade talks do not undermine EU chemicals legislation.
EU legislation is currently much more protective than US regulations. If chemicals are included in this trade deal, the EU could see its global leadership in protecting public health through tough laws like REACH watered down. In addition to pesticide legislation, TTIP could halt the EU’s progress on a policy to limit exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals.
What we want
The European Parliament has said that toxic chemicals should have no place in the TTIP negotiations. We agree and are calling for:
Chemicals to be excluded from regulatory cooperation because it would provide new channels for private profit to hold power in the drafting or revision of EU laws.
No elements of the controversial EU policy “Better Regulation” embedded in a legally binding trade agreement.
No provisions enabling multinationals to sideline the EU courts and sue European states, the so-called Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) or Investment Court System.What we’re already doing Today, at the start of the 13th TTIP round, HEAL, CIEL, the European Environmental Bureau and ClientEarth wrote to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström to ask her to ensure that no elements of the increasingly controversial EU ‘Better Regulation’ agenda are codified in this legally-binding trade agreement. See Re: Call to exclude the ‘Good Regulatory Practices’ chapter from TTIP letter.
We need YOU!
We hope to bring together not-for-profit organisations to support our campaign, in particular those working in the areas of:
Toxic chemicals and pesticides
Biodiversity (including those NGOs protecting bee populations)
Women’s and children’s rights
Not-for-profit health insurance organisations.
A new campaign to protect EU chemical laws, HEAL, 25 April 2016.
How the chemical lobby blocked action on hormone disrupting chemicals
Publisher: Corporate Europe Observatory, May 19th 2015.
An investigation led by research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and journalist Stéphane Horel exposes corporate lobby groups mobilising to stop the EU taking action on hormone (endocrine) disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The report sheds light on how corporations and their lobby groups have used numerous tactics from the corporate lobbying playbook: scaremongering, evidence-discrediting, and delaying tactics, as well as using the ongoing TTIP negotiations as a leverage. But industry’s interests were also defended by actors within the Commission.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that are present in everyday products – from plastics and cosmetics to pesticides. Because of their ability to interact with the hormonal (endocrine) systems of living organisms, they are suspected of having severe health and environmental impacts.
EU law demands action be taken on endocrine disruptors, with clear deadlines set. According to these rules, if a chemical is identified as an endocrine disruptor, a ban follows. The current approach is that chemicals are assessed following risk assessment procedures and safe levels of exposure are set accordingly. However, for endocrine disruptors it might be impossible to set such ‘safe’ levels.
The Directorate-General (DG) for the Environment of the European Commission was put in charge of establishing a set of scientific criteria for ‘what is an endocrine disruptor‘. The chemical industry lobby was up in arms at the potential banning of some EDCs. The main lobby groups involved were the chemical and pesticide lobbies (CEFIC – European Chemical Industry Council & ECPA – European Crop Protection Association), and the corporations at the forefront were BASF and Bayer. But they found allies in various member states, actors within the European Commission, and in the European Parliament.
‘Policy prescriptions: the firepower of the EU pharmaceutical lobby and implications for public health‘ by Corporate Europe Observatory probes the privileged access to decision-making in Brussels enjoyed by the sector and facilitated by a lobby spend of around €40 million, extensive meetings with policy-makers, and presence in advisory groups. Under-reporting and the continued avoidance by some of the EU’s voluntary lobby transparency system mean that overall industry spending may be much higher than the transparency register reveals.
The report shows that Big Pharma enjoys a staggering number of meetings with European Commission departments and officials. For example, influential EU pharmaceutical trade association, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), had over 50 meetings with the Juncker Commission in its first four and a half months of office.
“The large-scale efforts of big pharmaceutical companies to mould EU policy to their own commercial benefit and their privileged access to EU decision-makers are deeply worrying. Strong measures are needed to avoid capture of EU health policy by Big Pharma, beginning with full transparency over industry lobbying and ending of privileged access,” says CEO researcher and author of the report, Rachel Tansey.
The study examines some of Big Pharma’s channels of influence in the EU and exposes concrete examples of EU law and policies that have been targeted or shaped by the industry. These include rules around clinical trials’ data transparency, trade secrets, and the negotiation of the EU-US trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
It also puts pharma lobby group EFPIA in the spotlight, examining its goals, tactics, access and influence, including a critique of the EU’s multi-billion euro public-private partnership with EFPIA, the ‘Innovative Medicines Initiative’.
Video on regulatory cooperation in the TTIP negotiations
The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (or TTIP) is called a “trade treaty”. But if agreed, the TTIP would actually hand corporations the power to overturn democratically decided laws, on everything from environmental protections to food safety, through a system of regulatory cooperation and secret courts that only corporations would have access to.
What do you think of the Commission’s public consultation on endocrine disruptors? Are you happy with the process?
If we talk about the consultation itself, it’s a good thing. When talking about the whole process, we’re concerned because it’s too slow. It has already been delayed and the timeline for a definition of endocrine disruptors has not been respected. We are in an uncertain situation. It makes a lot of unclarity for the evaluators at the EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) level, for the risk managers, the member states and of course also for our members. The sooner the criteria is established and validated, the better it will be.
Contrary to what some NGOs think, we have not worked to slowdown the process.
You would prefer stringent criteria adopted fast rather than the opposite?
No. Since the current regulation was adopted, we have been fighting hard against the so-called hazard criteria. Until now, all our products were risk-based evaluated. That means that every technology including natural products can come under the label ‘hazard’. Based on the use, crops and the amount, there is an exposure which is big or low and if we combine the hazard with the exposure, then the risk manager can say that we can put the product on the market based on this. Europe is the only place in the world where we have this approach now.
Does this also include minimum residue levels for pesticides?
Yes, and this issue will become hotter this year due to the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) negotiations. Endocrine disruptors and TTIP can be linked due to the residue levels. We don’t want them to be linked too much, but some people want them to be linked.
People from the Commission?
No, the new Commission in fact has a new way of looking at things. Our understanding is that they prefer to check and be sure that the current regulation is working. If it’s not working, they want to make it work before they consider new regulation.
Before the new Commission took office we thought that the current regulation, which really hasn’t been working yet, would be revised as soon as possible. Now, if the Commission says it’s better to really make the current regulation work, then that’s a fine idea.
But the public consultation is taking place to update the regulation, right?
The consultation is specific to endocrine disruptors. The problem with it is that it’s not a general public consultation. In fact, you do need a little bit of knowledge about the file. This is more for experts. This topic really is the hot topic of the coming months and we have of course been contributing to the consultation. As one of many important stakeholders in this debate, we take the issue of endocrine disruptors seriously. We welcome a vigorous, informative and reasonable public dialogue to fully consider the consequences of the criteria for endocrine disruption.
These criteria will be used to regulate endocrine disruptors in sector-specific chemicals legislation, such as for general chemicals, biocides and pesticides. The application of these criteria could have significant consequences for consumers, agriculture and trade. That’s why the public consultation is so vital to the process.
Our position is that the EU’s criteria should evaluate endocrine active substances based on risk assessment, considering both hazard and exposure, and that the final criteria should clearly distinguish those substances that are of high regulatory concern from those that are not.
The number of active substances available for the industry to use has consistently been reduced due to regulation…
Not only because of the regulation, but also because of us. In the 1990s, we had around 1,000 substances available on the European market. Today, the number is 250 because regarding 60-70% of the substances, we have decided not to maintain them as we knew they would be technically outdated and we would have better solutions for the farmers. Then we had 80 substances where we were trying to renew them, but this was not accepted due to risk concerns. At the same time, on top of the 250 substances, 150 new substances have been developed.
So we have 400 substances now, and they are generally safer. They represent less risk and really answer our needs as consumers and citizens. With the new regulation on endocrine disruptors, our guess is that between 50 to 60 substances can again disappear, knowing that all the current 400 will have to go through the screening again.
Have you identified those 50-60 substances?
Yes, and among those potential ones, there are ones which are bringing technical solutions that are very useful for the farmers and we don’t really have alternative solutions available yet. This could result in substances disappearing from the market so that, for example, wheat production, which is an important crop in Europe, can be negatively impacted.
We want an approach that is really pragmatic, based on use.
The 50-60 substances that you think could be taken off the market… Is this something the industry is already taking for granted and already phasing out? Do you agree that the risk may too high for some of them?
Today, based on the knowledge available and on the current risk-benefit analysis, which has been done, there’s no obvious reason. We potentially have some insecticides which have been largely used, with a lot of benefits, which could disappear.
We have been bringing new families, new benefits, more targeted and environmental-friendly products to the market. Of course we can always do more. This is what our research and development teams are working on. But for a product, we need more than ten years before bringing them to the market. We cannot make those changes in a split second.
The number of products reaching the market is declining because companies are not taking risks when there are so many discussions on criteria profile to continue to push for them being on the market.
The concern is still about the products in the pipeline or those already on the market. It’s more and more complicated to find new product families. If we rely too much on the same product families, the risk of resistance will be increased, and then the farmers won’t be able to control the problem.
I’m guessing you are trying to meet with Commissioner Frans Timmermans, the First Vice-President responsible for Better Regulation. Are you telling the Commission to drop this legislation?
No. We have looked at impact assessments from the beginning so that we remain consistent. What we just want is an acceleration of the process. We don’t know yet what the outcome will be.
What will be the desirable outcome from your point of view?
The desirable outcome for us would be that before taking the decision to exclude a substance, they go through a risk-benefit analysis which is not the case today from the current regulation. If you have classified a substance as an endocrine disruptor, whatever the criteria is, because they are still being discussed, then it will be dropped.
Do you think the Commission is listening to this argument?
With the new Commission, I don’t know. But there were different opinions in the previous different Commission units.
The new Commission has a new approach which is more centralised, which could help making your point, no?
We have not yet had the opportunity to really… We have had a meeting in one of the cabinets, but it was more like an introductory meeting.
Impact assessments are being reviewed at the Commission with a more systematic cost-benefit analysis being considered. You must see this as going in the right direction, no?
In principle, of course it goes in the right direction. This is for the future. But for today and for the endocrine disruptors, the fight has already been quite emotional that I can’t imagine that this impact assessment will continue to the end and then stop.
On the other hand, we’re not interested in stopping it because that would keep it in the grey area. We are really happy that the public consultation will close on Friday.
The impact assessment, I believe, has already started and some input will be used from the public consultation to make the final proposal of the criteria which will be discussed by the Council and Parliament. The only concern we have is the planning, because we don’t expect the criteria to be agreed by the Commission, Parliament and Council before the end of 2016. It’s not going to be tomorrow. In the meantime, the debate will continue. – 16/01/2015.