Op 2 februari 2015 publiceerde The Guardian een artikel waarin stond dat wel 31 pesticiden met hormoonontregelende eigenschappen met een waarde van miljarden euro's verboden hadden kunnen worden wegens mogelijke gezondheidsrisico's, als de EU naar aanleiding van een Commissiedocument over chemische stoffen met hormoonanaloge werking niet had stilgezeten, maar verdere actie had ondernomen.
In dit document uit 2013 noemt de Commissie mogelijke criteria voor het identificeren en categoriseren van hormoonontregelende stoffen. Dit zijn chemische stoffen die door wetenschappers in verband worden gebracht met een stijging van het aantal afwijkingen bij foetussen, afwijkingen in voortplantingsorganen en een toename van kanker en onvruchtbaarheid. De vaststelling van criteria voor hormoonontregelende stoffen, waarvoor als wettelijke termijn 13 december 2013 gold, zou het gemakkelijker hebben gemaakt regelgevende maatregelen (zoals een verbod op toxische werkzame stoffen in pesticiden) tegen deze stoffen vast te stellen.
In juli 2013 besloot de Commissie echter met betrekking tot deze criteria een effectbeoordeling te laten verrichten, waardoor de procedure stagneerde.
Kan de Commissie uitleggen waarom zij heeft besloten een effectbeoordeling te initiëren, ten gevolge waarvan zij nu niet voldoet aan haar wettelijke verplichting? Waarom is de Commissie van oordeel dat een effectbeoordeling waarin wordt gekeken naar de economische gevolgen van verschillende mogelijke definities een passende manier is om antwoord te krijgen op de wetenschappelijke vraag wat hormoonontregelende stoffen zijn? Hoe zal de Commissie, los van de redenen die zij voor de effectbeoordeling aanvoert, in de effectbeoordeling rekening houden met de voordelen van vermindering van blootstelling aan hormoonontregelende stoffen?
Madam President, honourable Members, I am pleased to attend this plenary session today to discuss with you the issue of endocrine disruptors.
I would like to start by quoting Article 168 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. ‘A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities.’ This is a fundamental rule applicable to all our policies. The issue of endocrine disruptors reaches to the core of this principle. Therefore, I would like to assure you that, as Commissioner for Health and Food Safety and all the more as a medical doctor, I will only make decisions which respect this very principle; there can be no compromises on health.
Now let us turn to your question. Endocrine disruptors are a highly complex issue. The decision that we take will have a significant impact on health, the environment, agriculture, trade and on a wide range of other sectors. Therefore, this is a priority file for me and my services. I would like to start by clarifying the current situation and its genesis as regards endocrine disruptors, rather than commenting on an article in The Guardian which refers to some so-called EU paper, on which I cannot respond.
To date, the Commission has not adopted or published any official Commission document on the issue of defining endocrine-disrupting chemicals. I would like to present the work that I have been doing since the beginning of my mandate, which started four months ago, as well as explain my intentions for the future.
Back in June 2014, the Commission defined a road map for the development of the criteria for endocrine disruptors. The road map, which I need to respect and follow, describes the legislative background and policy options that will be evaluated for the endocrine disruptors in the disruptors criteria. The road map also makes provision for an impact assessment. The work for it started already in 2013 under the joint responsibility of DG Environment and DG SANCO. As of November 2014, it was placed under my full responsibility. Let me briefly explain the reasons for carrying out an impact assessment.
Many countries have raised concerns regarding endocrine disruptors but in terms of transposition of the concerns into legislation we, the European Union, are pioneers and world leaders. The EU co-legislators have already set interim criteria which ensure protection of human health and the environment until a permanent decision is taken. The precautionary principle of this approach, which they followed, is one I support. Our future decision will set an example, and therefore it must be made in full knowledge of the facts. Yet endocrine disruption is quite a recent way of looking at the toxicity of chemicals. We see divergent views amongst scientists and regulators worldwide.
There are studies being published every day. Just last week new scientific information on the potential high cost to human health and society caused by hormone-disrupting chemicals was published in the press. We monitor these developments and take them into consideration. The new criteria will also affect several other pieces of EU legislation and different kinds of regulatory actions will be triggered. All these reasons objectively justify the need for the impact assessment. I would also recall that the seventh environmental action plan adopted by the European Parliament in 2013 asks the Union to develop harmonised results-based criteria for the identification of endocrine disruptors, which means criteria applicable to all chemical legislation. This is yet another reason for us to undertake an impact assessment in such a sensitive and complex situation.
The assessment, which will evaluate different scenarios to define the endocrine disruptors, is already on trial. The first phase of external studies was launched in November 2014. The Joint Research Centre Institute for Health and Consumer Protection is developing a methodology for the criteria to identify the endocrine disruptors.
The second phase of the study has already started and will be done by an external contractor. I understand that it will take some time until we complete all the actions set in the road map, but we need to make informed decisions and make them in full transparency. We have organised a public consultation and received 27 000 contributions. They are public and already available via a website. My services are working hard summarising their input.
Speaking about transparency, a website dedicated to the issue of endocrine disruptors will be made available very shortly. Additionally, I will be holding a round-table public conference very soon to discuss the outcome of the public consultation. In preparation for this conference we will also hold preparatory meetings with the main stakeholders, Members of the European Parliament and NGOs. If need be, I will organise more than one public meeting on the issue. I am committed to do my job seriously and in full transparency.
In parallel, since the beginning of my mandate, I have discussed the issue of endocrine disruptors with a number of Members of the European Parliament and a wide range of stakeholders. I have encouraged European ministers to formulate their approach to the question of endocrine disruptors. Just last week I met the French Minister and discussed the issues with her.
It is a complex, difficult file and the Members’ questions show their concern. I invite Members to cooperate with me, to exchange views with me and my services, and to participate in the debate and future events that I mentioned earlier. Meanwhile I am active on this issue. I will do my job in full transparency and will make no compromise on health.