Secrecy and opacity have no place when it comes to health and the environment. The Court of Justice of the EU has ruled on Thursday that studies on the possible toxicity of glyphosate should be public. The Court of Luxembourg thus breaks the veil of darkness surrounding the reports on the most used herbicide on the continent, vetoed for consultation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Four ecologist MEPs and one researcher had unsuccessfully requested access to the papers. The food agency gave them some of the information, but refused to provide other passages alleging that its dissemination could cause commercial and financial damage to the companies that sell it, among which are multinationals such as Monsanto. In addition, he denied that there was a superior public interest that justified the disclosure. The applicants did not give up and went to the General Court of the EU, which has proved them right.
Glyphosate, a chemical used in pesticides, is legal, and was declared non-carcinogenic by EFSA, but the suspicion continues to accompany it. In 2015, the cancer research group of the World Health Organization alerted of its probable carcinogenic effects, but both the European Commission and the Member States were against to prohibit it, although without unanimity. The European Union extended its license by the end of 2017 for another five years with the support of 18 community partners, nine votes against - including France - and one abstention.
In their sentence, the judges annul the resolutions of the EFSA that impede the access to the studies. And they justify it by arguing that the right of the public to have information about consequences of glyphosate for the environment and health It is more important than the protection of sensitive data. "An institution of the Union, which processes a request for access to a document, can not justify its refusal to disclose it based on the exception relating to the protection of the commercial interests of a natural or legal person," the ruling states.
The food authority is usually jealous in the protection of this information, since it may contain clues on how to make the product that can be used by competitors. For this reason, it tries to maintain a balance between the public interest and the commercial secret so as not to be the subject of demands if they disclose certain information. "Thanks to the publication of all the studies, in the future independent scientists will be able to double control the science behind pesticide evaluations," said Greens MEP Marcel Florent Marcellesi.
Sources from the European food agency indicate that their legal services are now studying how to implement the ruling of the CJEU, but they have positively assessed that the judges provide clarity on how they should act. "The decision of the Court is important because it guides us on how to interpret European legislation on access to public documents," EFSA said in a statement.