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France: Torn on the endocrine disruptors issue

  • United Kingdom
  • Environment
  • Diversified industrials - Chemicals

07-09-2017

After months of negotiations, France agreed to the EU definition of endocrine disruptors and just passed national regulations - an outcome that was rather unpredictable and an opportunity to take stock of the situation with regard to endocrine disruptors.

The EU definition to-be

Following a 2015 condemnation by the General Court of the European Union for failing to adopt scientific criteria to identify endocrine disruptors with regards to biocides and pesticides, the Commission adopted a proposal of definition, which would amend the Regulation 1107/2009 on the placing of plant protection products on the market.

The definition takes over the World Health Organisation’s definition and allows for the identification of both known and presumed endocrine disrupting substances, with the underlying objective to ensure that any active identified substance can be assessed and withdrawn from the market. This definition was supported by Germany but has been criticised in particular by Sweden and Denmark who consider the standards enabling the qualification as endocrine disruptors too strict.

France’s ambiguous turnaround on the EU definition

France voted in favour of the Commission’s proposal, thus allowing its adoption by qualified majority of the Member States representatives on 4 July 2017, the proposal now being examined by the Parliament. Surprising move given that France disputed the Commission’s proposal for a year, and did back up Sweden before the General Court in its 2015 claim against the Commission.

However, France also chose to act beyond and faster than the EU Commission. On 13 July 2017, the Government led by new minister of Environmental Transition Nicolas Hulot, published two national lists of around 1000 biocides and 600 pesticides that are likely to be endocrine-disrupting, based on the data collected by an impact assessment led by the Commission in 2016, that is before the proposed definition was drafted.

As a result the situation remains uncertain. The two national lists are only temporary and are meant to be modified once the new definition and guidelines are adopted, while in the meantime environmentalist as well as industrial organisations are trying to pull a seemingly unsettled governmental policy in different directions. Notably, the French Industrial Union for the Plant Protection (UIPP) has recalled the President’s commitment of not going further than EU law.

What is more, it should be noted that the EU definition adopted for pesticides and biocides is designed to provide a stepping stone for further actions targeting toys, cosmetics and food packaging. More regulations in this field are therefore to anticipate.

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