Case will test the authority’s “Open EFSA” policy
The Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament is taking the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to court after a year of attempts to get access to documents used for the 2015 assessment of glyphosate.
Over a year ago, the group’s MEPs Bart Staes, Benedek Jávor, Heidi Hautala and Michèle Rivasi first sent the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) an official access to documents request, in order to access the studies on which EFSA based its assessment that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.
EFSA had claimed that the reason for its disagreement with the World Health Organisation's cancer agency (IARC) – which classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans" – is that EFSA used unpublished studies that IARC did not look at. This is because, in contrast to EFSA, IARC's rules do not allow them to use unpublished studies for their assessments.
However, EFSA did not grant the MEPs full access to those studies. It released some documents, but with important omissions that did not allow independent scientists to assess the data. According to the Greens/EFA group, EFSA stated that the data were owned by the companies that are trying to get their glyphosate products approved for use on the market, adding that releasing the complete studies would harm the commercial interests of the companies.
EFSA also claimed that scientific studies about glyphosate are NOT information about environmental emissions. The authority insisted that there is no superior public interest that would warrant full publication of the studies, because there is enough information out there already to permit proper scrutiny.
The Greens/EFA group commented in a statement, “Having worked with toxicologists and consulted with access to information experts, the Greens/EFA group disagrees with this assessment: we believe that all studies should be made public, according to the Aarhus Regulation, because they are precisely about environmental emissions – glyphosate itself is an emission! And there is clearly a high public interest in glyphosate in general. This is why we are now calling on the European Court of Justice to take a decision in this case, to shed some light on the balance that should be struck between the public right to information and the commercial interests of private companies.”
The court case will test EFSA's "Open EFSA" policy – will the authority fight this in court or not? We recommend that EFSA uses the opportunity to tell the judge that it would very much like to be able to publish the data.