Reforming EU Pesticides Regulation, Rebuilding Public Support: Evidence from Survey Experiments in Six Member States
66 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2021
Date Written: June 8, 2021
The authorization and use of pesticides in the European Union (EU) have become increasingly controversial and politically salient over the past decade. In particular the European Commission’s decision to re-authorize the use of glyphosate, the active substance in Bayer/Monsanto’s Roundup, after it had been classified a ‘probable human carcinogen’ by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), was highly controversial and triggered a lively debate on how to reform EU pesticide regulation. In this policy report, we assess whether and how specific reforms to decision-making procedures could impact public support for EU pesticides regulation, including acceptance of authorization decisions on controversial substances such as glyphosate. To do so, we first identified the main challenges of European pesticides regulation exposed by recent developments, including (but not limited to) the glyphosate controversy, as well as the actual and potential reforms proposed by the EU institutions, civil society organizations, academic commentators, and other stakeholders. We grouped these challenges and related reform proposals into four dimensions, namely: 1) the organization of the decision-making process; 2) the factors considered when authorizing pesticides; 3) sources of evidence and potential conflicts of interest; and 4) post-market monitoring and review of authorized pesticides. We then conducted a pair of linked online survey experiments on public attitudes toward reform of EU pesticides regulation in June 2020 among a representative sample of the adult population in six Member States (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden, n=9022). Our results show that the introduction of systematic post-authorization monitoring and review, and consideration of all relevant scientific studies in the authorization decision are the two most promising reforms to increase public support for pesticides regulation. Moreover, if a hypothetical glyphosate authorization decision is taken under a decision-making procedure that citizens (strongly) support, they are more likely to accept it even if they previously opposed this outcome. Our findings are particularly relevant given that glyphosate is currently again undergoing a renewal procedure in the EU.
Keywords: European Union, risk regulation, governance, pesticides, decision making, public opinion
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