It’s a new stone thrown in the garden of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). According to a report published Monday, June 7 by the NGO Pesticide Action Network (PAN Europe), EFSA has given the green light over the past fifteen years to twelve pesticides suspected of being genotoxic, that is, say capable of damaging DNA and therefore causing cancer. A study that further undermines the credo of the institution: “Reliable science for safe food”.
These twelve pesticides, unknown to the general public, are now widely used across Europe. For example, there is maleic hydrazide, a herbicide. Its metabolites (resulting from its degradation) include hydrazine, a substance considered to be genotoxic and classified as a category 1B (suspected) carcinogen for humans according to the European Union classification for carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) products. However, the marketing of maleic hydrazide was re-approved at European level in October 2017 for a period of fifteen years based on evaluations carried out by EFSA.
In France, five commercial preparations containing maleic hydrazide have a marketing authorization, issued by the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (Handles). According to the latest pharmacovigilance sheet devoted to it by ANSES, in October 2018, they are used for the treatment of potatoes, carrots, onions and as a track weedkiller. And its use is climbing: 100 tonnes in 2016 against 49 tonnes in 2009. Residues of maleic hydrazide have been found in several foodstuffs: potatoes, onions, shallots. On reading the sheet, we also discover that no analysis has been carried out since 2012 and that it has not been investigated in food intended for animals.
Exclude all human contact
The case of maleic hydrazide illustrates the flaws in the EFSA authorization process. While hydrazine is classified as genotoxic and suspected carcinogen, EFSA considers that it is not genotoxic below a certain concentration (0.028 ppm). A toxicological approach undermined by the scientific community for substances such as genotoxic or endocrine disrupting products, deemed to act “without threshold”, ie from the smallest exposure. And an approach which contradicts and undermines the new European doctrine of “zero exposure”. Since 2009, the European directive governing the marketing of pesticides aims to exclude all human contact (direct or through food) with products considered carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic or endocrine disrupting.
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