By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On June 3, 2015, the General Court of the European Court of Justice issued a ruling in Luxembourg Pamol (Cyprus) Ltd. and Luxembourg Industries Ltd. (Luxembourg) vs. European Commission regarding the publication of information by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in its peer reviewed draft assessment report of potassium phosphonate that Luxembourg claimed as confidential.
The case was brought by Luxembourg after EFSA rejected Luxembourg’s claim that certain information be treated as confidential, and not included in the EFSA’s peer reviewed draft assessment report on potassium phosphonate. The European Commission agreed with EFSA. EFSA stated that under the Plant Protection Product Regulation No. 1107/2009 (and Article 14 of its predecessor Directive 91/414) and European Union (EU) Regulation No. 199/2011 setting forth procedures for reviewing certain active substances including EFSA’s peer review of draft assessment reports, confidential status cannot be extended to: information on the composition of the substance at issue; the analysis method for that substance; the analysis methods for residues; the scientific information on the basis for the evaluation and risk assessments performed; and information already in the public domain. After EFSA refused the confidentiality request, Luxembourg sought reconsideration by the European Commission, who found that the sanitization principles applied by EFSA “reflect a common understanding of EFSA and the Commission of the provisions of Article 14 of Directive 91/414/EEC.”
In its decision, the Court dismissed the lawsuit because Luxembourg brought the case against the European Commission when the appropriate party was EFSA. The Court agreed with the Commission that the decision at issue was an act of and attributable to EFSA, stating that while the Commission “indicated to EFSA the legislation and principles applicable to the requests for confidentiality at issue, the fact remains that the Commission did not apply that legislation and those principles in order to determine those claims itself.” The Court stated that Article 7(2) of Regulation No. 188/2011 grants EFSA to make confidentiality determinations “in its own right” and that Articles 12(1) and 60 of Regulation No. 1107/2009 show that EFSA is “competent to adopt a decision on a request for confidentiality.”
While this decision does not provide certainty or guidance to industry regarding the type of information that can be claimed, and accepted, as confidential, it does add to a growing pool of cases addressing complex issues regarding the confidential treatment of information related to agrochemicals. This includes, but is not limited to, the ongoing case following the European Court of Justice’s October 8, 2013, ruling that the European Commission erred by refusing access to documentation about the pesticide glyphosate.
By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Lisa R. Burchi
On May 22, 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a call for new scientific information relevant to the evaluation of the risk to bees in the European Union (EU) from the use of the three neonicotinoid pesticide active substances: clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam (the substances).
The call for data complies with the decision taken by the European Commission in May 2013, Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No. 485/2013, to put in place measures to restrict the use of the substances, which at the time included prohibiting use of the active substances clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and imidacloprid as a seed or soil treatment and for pre-flowering applications on crops attractive to bees and for cereals other than winter cereals. In May 2013, the Commission also stated that within two years it would initiate a review of any new scientific information.
EFSA is urging national authorities, research institutions, industry, and other interested parties to submit all information on the effects, exposure, and risks of the three substances regarding bees -- honeybees, bumble bees, and solitary bees -- when used as seed treatments and granules. This can include:
- Literature data, including grey literature and any other data from research activities relevant to the risk assessment for bees for the uses of the three substances applied as seed treatments and granules. Data that have been provided and identified as relevant by EFSA in its published systematic literature review report need not be submitted, however.
- Study reports conducted specifically to assess the risk to bees from the three substances applied as seed treatments and granules, and not yet considered under the previous EFSA assessments (EFSA Journal 2013;11(1): 3066, 3067, 3068).
- National evaluations and/or monitoring data relevant to the risk assessment for bees for the uses of the three substances applied as seed treatments and granules that are available at the Competent Authorities of Member States and not yet considered under the previous EFSA assessments, listed in the above bullet.
- Data that EFSA stated were not relevant in its published systematic literature review report may be submitted only if accompanied with a scientific rationale supporting their relevance.
The notice states that all information should be submitted by September 30, 2015. Any information submitted can be claimed as confidential by following procedures set forth in Article 63 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009. EFSA will review the material provided from this call for data and offer conclusions concerning an updated risk assessment following receipt of a follow-up mandate from the European Commission.
By Lisa M. Campbell, James V. Aidala, and Lisa R. Burchi
On March 2, 2015, European Union (EU) Ministers approved a Directive previously approved by the European Parliament with regard to genetically modified organisms (GMO). EU Directive 2010/0208, entitled Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for the Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their territory, will allow individual Member States to determine whether they will allow, ban, or otherwise restrict the cultivation of GMOs, even in cases where the EU has authorized use of a GMO following the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) assessment of the risks to health and the environment.
Specifically, the Directive provides: “a Member State may adopt measures restricting or prohibiting the cultivation in all or part of its territory of a GMO, or of a group of GMOs defined by crop or trait, once authorised in accordance with Part C of this Directive or with Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003, provided that such measures are in conformity with Union law, reasoned, proportional and non-discriminatory and, in addition, are based on compelling grounds.” The grounds stated include those related to:
* Environmental policy objectives;
* Town and country planning;
* Land use;
* Socio-economic impacts;
* Avoidance of GMO presence in other products without prejudice to Article 26a;
* Agricultural policy objectives; and
* Public policy.
A Member State also can seek to have all or part of its territory excluded from the geographical scope during the authorization procedure for a GMO.
The passage of this Directive is the culmination of years of negotiations between EU Member States that have disagreed over the cultivation of GMOs in their territories. The new rules, which will allow EU countries to opt-out from otherwise approved EU GMOs, are sure to be controversial as Member States, industry, farmers, and the public work out details related to the potentially non-scientific grounds that a particular Member State relies upon in restricting or banning use of a GMO, and as Member States develop measures that allowed GMOs must take to avoid “possible cross-border contamination.”
The legislation will enter into force following its publication in the Official Journal of the EU, which is expected in Spring 2015.
As various members of the EU continue to oppose production of GMO crops, these policies will remain trade irritants to the U.S. and other countries where GMO crops have been widely adopted. This comes as trade negotiations are ongoing and the EU allowance of trade barriers based on the “precautionary principle” remains a major point of disagreement between the EU and the U.S. (with its reliance on “science-based risk assessment policies”). This latest development, which further allows EU Member States to reject GMO crops under various criteria, will not make resolving any current or future trade disagreements any easier.
By Lisa R. Burchi
The European Commission (EC) Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed has issued a guidance document entitled Draft Guidance Document on the Interpretation of the Transitional Measures for the Data Requirements for Chemical Active Substances and Plant Protection Products according to Regulation (EU) No. 283/2013 and Regulation (EU) No. 284/2013. Following the adoption in 2009 of Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products (PPP), additional regulations were adopted to establish the necessary data requirements for active substances and PPPs. In 2013, Regulation (EU) No. 283/2013 (amended by Regulation (EU) No. 1136/2014) updated the data requirements for active substances, while Regulation (EU) No. 284/2013 updated data requirements for products. These Regulations include transitional measures to explain when certain applications can rely upon former data requirements and when the updated data requirements must be satisfied.
The Guidance provides two charts describing the transitional measures for: (1) applications for approval, renewal, or approval or amendment of approval of Active Substances; and (2) applications for authorization, renewal of authorization, or amendment of authorization of Plant Protection Products. Each chart describes the type of application at issue and the resulting data requirements. For authorization applications, the Guidance divides the types of applications and resulting data requirements into four active substances categories: (1) AIR-2 active substances; (2) AIR-3 active substances/substances not yet renewed; (3) new active substances; and (4) mixtures.
The Guidance was developed to assist EU Member States in consistently applying and interpreting these transitional measures. Many of the data requirement decisions depend on the type of active substances and whether an application is submitted before or after December 31, 2015, so companies considering or planning to submit applications should review the Guidance carefully to determine what data requirements may be applicable.
By Lisa R. Burchi
On January 27, 2015, the European Union (EU) Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed agreed to a proposed list of 77 pesticide active substances to be classified as Candidates for Substitution (CFS). The draft list of CFS is available online. A Question and Answer (Q&A) document regarding the CFS list is available online. Additional information regarding the proposed list is also available online.
This list is an important and long-awaited development under the Plant Protection Product (PPP) Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009. The Standing Committee clarifies that the CFS active substances are not banned and that approved CFS active substances will remain on the EU market, although there are potentially significant consequences for those listed active substances. Most challenging is the requirement that Member States do the following for new applications for authorization of PPPs containing CFS active substances that are submitted after August 1, 2015: (1) conduct a comparative assessment when evaluating an application for authorization for a PPP containing an active substance approved as a CFS; and (2) not authorize or restrict the use of a PPP containing a CFS for use on a particular crop where the comparative assessment weighing up the risks and benefits demonstrates that safer alternatives exist. In addition, substances not evaluated by the Standing Committee (e.g., substances approved after January 1, 2013) can be identified as a CFS under Article 24 of the PPP Regulation. In those cases, any approval will be limited to a maximum of seven years, compared to 10 or 15 years for other active substances.
The next step will be review and adoption of the CFS list by the European Commission, and then publication of the list as a Commission Regulation in the Official Journal.
By Lisa M. Campbell and Lisa R. Burchi
On January 13, 2015, the Court of Justice (Grand Chamber) of the European Union (EU) overturned a judgment of the General Court of the European Union (General Court) in Stichting Natuur en Milieu and Pesticide Action Network Europe v. Commission.
The case concerned the non-governmental organizations’ (NGO), the Plaintiffs, interest in having the European Commission review Regulation (EC) 149/2008 amending Regulation (EC) 396/2005 of the European Parliament and of the European Council by establishing Annexes II, III, and IV setting maximum residue levels (MRL) for pesticides in or on certain products. In a June 14, 2012, decision, the General Court found that the European Commission was erroneous when it refused the NGOs’ request to review internally its regulation and found that the EU’s Aarhus Regulation 1367/2006 (setting forth how EU institutions would apply the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters) conflicted, in part, with Article 9(3) of the Convention in that it too narrowly limited the concept of an “administrative act” and the ability of the public to have access to administrative or judicial procedures to challenge acts by public authorities that contravene provisions of national law related to the environment. The European Commission and the European Council appealed the General Court’s decision, arguing in part that the Aarhus Regulation was not incompatible with the Aarhus Convention. In the January 13, 2015, decision, the Court of Justice agreed with the European Commission and the European Council, stating: “It follows from paragraph 47 of this judgment that Article 9(3) of the Aarhus Convention lacks the clarity and precision required for that provision to be properly relied on before the EU judicature for the purposes of assessing the legality of Article 10(1) of Regulation No 1367/2006.” This decision will have an impact on NGOs’ rights to seek review of EU environmental acts and, potentially, other pending cases brought by NGOs invoking rights under the Aarhus Regulations.