Environmental risk assessment of pesticides: transitioning to a systems-based approach
The use of regulated products (such as pesticides) is subject to an environmental risk assessment (ERA) and regulatory approval in most jurisdictions worldwide. While substantial progress has been made in achieving environmental protection with single product-based assessments, such assessments are perceived to have fallen out of step with the latest scientific knowledge. Further advancing the ERA of regulated products will contribute to supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and EU Green Deal ambitions to safeguard the environment (including biodiversity and ecosystems). In this thematic session, we will explore: (1) the scientific merits and shortcomings of the current ERA paradigm; (2) changes needed to advance the ERA of pesticides; (3) opportunities and challenges associated with the transition to/implementation of a more integrated ERA framework for pesticides; and (4) policy implications. Through the formulation of recommendations, the session will provide feedback to EFSA, other EU agencies, EU Member States and international partners on current challenges and future development opportunities for the transition towards a systems-based approach for the ERA of pesticides.
New scientific approaches, tools and data – along with new ways of engagement, cooperation and collaboration among relevant stakeholders – are needed to address complex environmental challenges that impact on human well-being and ecological health. Future environmental risk assessments (ERAs) of regulated products such as pesticides will require the use of a more inclusive and integrated (systems-based) approach to account for relevant scientific developments, risk assessment challenges, new policy targets and societal demands for a cleaner, greener future and more sustainable food systems. Changes needed to facilitate the transition to/implementation of more inclusive and integrated ERAs will be explored at various levels (covering science, regulatory science, policy and society), together with opportunities and challenges.
Background – Challenges and opportunities
Europe is pursuing its ambition for: (1) improved protection of the EU’s biodiversity and resilience of its ecosystems; (2) a toxic-free environment; and (3) a more sustainable future. The European Commission’s Green Deal provides an important step in this direction. Reducing the use and risk of pesticides, and reversing the decline of biodiversity are two of the various urgent “calls-to-action” embedded, respectively, in the Green Deal’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies. In line with the Green Deal, the Chemicals Strategy strives for a toxic-free environment, where chemicals are produced and used in a way that maximises their contribution to society, while avoiding harm to the planet and current and future generations. Further advancing the ERA of regulated products (such as pesticides) will contribute to supporting the European Commission’s mission to safeguard the environment (including biodiversity and ecosystems).
In line with sectoral legal requirements, the ERA of regulated products is typically performed on a single substance or product basis, for a specific type of use. While the EU has made substantial progress in achieving environmental protection within the existing ERA paradigm, the adequacy of current ERA frameworks of single substances or products are increasingly challenged by the scientific community and society. Such frameworks are perceived to have fallen out of step with the latest scientific knowledge. Moreover, they are not always aligned with current policy targets and societal demands that call for a cleaner, greener future and more sustainable food systems.
New scientific approaches, tools and data – along with new ways of engagement, cooperation and collaboration among relevant stakeholders – are needed to achieve sustainable solutions to protect the environment. Addressing new and complex environmental challenges requires transdisciplinary and systems-based approaches that: (1) formulate ERA issues/problems and associated protection goals holistically; (2) address cumulative effects due to exposure to multiple regulated substances or products in combination with other environmental stressors; (3) connect prospective and retrospective ERAs via monitoring and surveillance; (4) analyse upstream and downstream life-cycle implications; (5) evaluate a range of alternative solutions; (6) involve cooperation with a broad range of stakeholders; and (7) use interdisciplinary scientific approaches.
Scope and objectives
The accelerating and unprecedented loss of biodiversity globally has prompted concern about the adequacy of current ERA frameworks for regulated products to achieve the desired level of environmental protection. Building on the growing body of scientific evidence and in the light of new policy targets and societal demands, the thematic session will address key issues pertaining to the adequacy of the current ERA paradigm. Subsequently, the session will explore the necessary changes to further advance the ERA of pesticides. Special emphasis will be given to the use of a systems-based approach.
The main objectives of the thematic session are to:
- Present the scientific merits and shortcomings associated with the current ERA paradigm, and drivers for a paradigm shift;
- Explore the necessary changes required for advancing the ERA of pesticides;
- Discuss opportunities and challenges associated with the use of a systems-based approach for the ERA of pesticides at various levels (covering science, regulatory science, policy and society);
- Formulate recommendations facilitating the transition towards and regulatory uptake of a systems-based approach for the ERA of pesticides.
Part I - Framing of issues
Broadening the scope of future ERAs of pesticides: lessons from the neonicotinoids case
Jeroen P. Van Der Sluijs, University of Bergen
Why is there a need for a paradigm shift in the ERA of pesticides?
Annette Aldrich, Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)
Poll & Q&A
Vanessa Mazerolles, French Agency for food, environmental and occupationnal health and safety (ANSES)
Part II - Scientific opportunities facilitating transition to a new paradigm
SPRINT (Sustainable Plant Protection Transition): a global health approach
Violette Geissen, Wageningen University and Research (WUR)
NAMs and models in ecotoxicology and their usefulness for regulatory ERA
Sandrine Charles, University Claude Bernard Lyon 1
Simulation to support systems-based ERA: capabilities and possibilities
Christopher John Topping, Aarhus Universitiy
Tools and monitoring/surveillance data to assess the impact of multiple pesticides
Stephanie Bopp, Joint Research Centre (JRC)
Part III - Possible way forward – How to implement the transition and regulatory uptake of a systems-based approach