EU: MEP’s Questions & Answers - Glyphosate residues and imports

23 November 2017 - Marco Affronte et al. – [P-007195-17] - Subject: Glyphosate residues and imports

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide worldwide. Both the WHO and the American Cancer Society have warned that it is a probable human carcinogen. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has stated that it has found trace amounts of glyphosate in roughly 30% of food products tested, and residue levels above the recommended limits in 4% of all grain products. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), European imports contain glyphosate residues in a range of foods, with studies showing concentrations in pasta (from 0.01 to 0.16 mg/kg), beer (up to 0.03 mg/l), corn flakes and cookies (up to 0.14 mg/kg). Therefore, on a normal dietary day, a European citizen may ingest glyphosate from various sources (even more if the diet is based on wheat derivatives), triggering a cumulative effect. Assuming that the Acceptable Daily Intake is 0.5 mg/kg of body weight, and given that Parliament’s resolution of 24 October 2017[1] called for the phasing out of glyphosate:

Is the Commission aware of the risks related to the cumulative effects on the human body?

What steps does the Commission plan to take to address consumer concerns on the pesticide’s presence in the European diet and to ensure sufficient testing and monitoring of glyphosate residues in feed, food and drinks produced in, as well as imported into, the Union, in order to address the current data gap pointed out by EFSA?

Answer given by Mr Andriukaitis on behalf of the Commission (20 December 2017):

«Food products placed on the market in the European Union must comply with maximum residue levels (MRLs) of pesticides set in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 396/2005[2]. MRLs ensure that food products containing residues below these limits are safe for consumers regardless of their origin i.e. whether they are produced in the Union or imported from third countries. Concerning imports of certain food of non-animal origin, Regulation 669/2009[3] provides a list of products for which an increased level of official controls is established at the designated points of entry into the EU. The list is regularly reviewed.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) publishes annual reports on pesticide residues in food, most recently in April 2017[4], summarising the results of the EU coordinated multiannual control programme and of the national control programmes. The monitoring results in that report show that 89.9% of wheat samples did not contain any measurable glyphosate residues. None of the samples with measurable residues exceeded the MRL. The report does not differentiate wheat samples according to their origin. The consumers exposure assessment carried out with the control results did not provide grounds for health concerns for European citizens.

Further results for glyphosate residues are expected in the next annual report, as an outcome of the EU coordinated multiannual control programme. Member States have been requested to ensure monitoring of a wide variety of crops for glyphosate, including both domestic and imported samples.

The cumulative effects on human body are subject to ongoing research by EFSA and Member States, supported by the Commission. Once the methodology to assess such effects is developed, it will be used in setting MRLs.».

[1]     European Parliament resolution of 24 October 2017 on the draft Commission implementing regulation renewing the approval of the active substance glyphosate in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, and amending the annex to Implementing Regulation (EU) No 540/2011, Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0395.

[2]     Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 February 2005 on maximum residue levels of pesticides in or on food and feed of plant and animal origin and amending Council Directive 91/414/EEC, OJ L 70, 16.3.2005, p. 1–16.

[3]     Commission Regulation (EC) No 669/2009 of 24 July 2009 implementing Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the increased level of official controls on imports of certain feed and food of non-animal origin and amending Decision 2006/504/EC, OJ L 194, 25.7.2009, p. 11–21.

[4]     https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/4791