hand hovering over a field of crops

Landmark European court decision grants access to pesticide tests

The European Court of Justice has ruled that information from safety tests on pesticides and potentially harmful chemicals must be available to the public.

The landmark judgement was opposed by the European Commission and the chemical industry.

ClientEarth’s chemicals lawyer Vito Buonsante said:

“This decision puts the interests of European citizens and the environment before the interest of the chemicals and pesticides industry.

“Today’s ruling means that all information from safety tests on how chemicals may affect human health or the environment cannot be considered, in any way, confidential.”

The decision of the Court clarifies the concept of ‘emissions into the environment’.

This must not only include information on emissions – for instance information on the nature, composition, quantity, date and place of those emissions – but also information which allows  citizens to check whether the assessment of actual or foreseeable emissions is correct.

The decision ends a long-running dispute between campaigners Greenpeace and PAN Europe, and the European Commission which started in 2011.

After an initial victory in the General Court that provided access to safety tests on chemicals by the two NGOs, the Commission appealed against the decision. If successful, this would have protected the interests of the chemicals industry.

The case particularly relates to a widely used pesticide called Glyphosate.

In its appeal, the Commission was supported by three American chemical lobbies, an international lobby for the pesticide industry and the entire EU chemical industry lobby.

It is likely that today’s decision will lead to further access to information cases, not just on chemicals and pesticides, but on all pieces of legislation relevant to chemicals, including REACH.

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Nuno Barreto