European Ombudsman Criticizes Commission Over Pesticide Approvals

By Stephen Gardner

Feb. 23 — The European Commission said it has agreed to tighten the process for approvals of pesticides in the European Union after criticism from the European Ombudsman that some approvals were granted before applicants had provided sufficient substance safety information.

In a Feb. 22 decision, the Ombudsman said that in some cases the commission granted pesticide approvals through a so-called confirmatory data procedure, under which applicants were asked to provide additional risk assessments and other data on the potential risks of substances, but the commission allowed the approvals anyway while waiting for the additional information.

The Ombudsman said a 1991 EU law on pesticide authorizations (Directive 91/414/EEC) “does not contain an express legal basis” for use of the confirmatory data procedure and by using the procedure the commission may have acted in a way that was “unlawful and contrary to the principles of good administration.”

A 2009 EU regulation on pesticide authorizations (Regulation 1107/2009) that replaced the 1991 directive did include a firmer legal base for the procedure, but the procedure should be used only in “exceptional cases” when likelihood of a pesticide evaluation being changed was “minor,” the Ombudsman said.

Report Requested

European Commission spokesman Enrico Brivio told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 22 that the commission had “fully cooperated with the European Ombudsman,” and was “committed to fully comply with the framework now in place for the assessment of pesticides.”

The Ombudsman said it asked the commission to report in two years so that it could evaluate its compliance with the limitations on the use of the confirmatory data procedure.

Brivio confirmed that the commission would submit a report to the Ombudsman after two years.

The European Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in EU institutions and agencies, and can issue nonbinding decisions and seek to arbitrate between parties.

The Pesticide Action Network Europe, which filed the complaint to the Ombudsman, said the confirmatory data procedure allowed substances to be approved for use as pesticides despite “serious data gaps,” and this implied “the pesticides currently on the market are not safe.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Gardner in Brussels at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at

For More Information

The European Ombudsman's decision on the authorization of pesticides is available at