Plan B For Banned Asulam

20 September 2011
Scottish MEP Alyn Smith has reacted to today's decision by the European Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) to ban the use of Asulam (marketed in Scotland as Asulox) in the EU with the reassurance that the matter is far from over.
SCoFCAH has decided that authorisation for sale and supply must be withdrawn by 31 December 2011, and authorisation for storage and use must be withdrawn by 31 December 2012.

There have been fears for some time that the chemical (which is used for aerial bracken spraying though authorised instead under the applicable legislation for use on spinach) would be taken off the market due to safety concerns.

Alyn has written (again) to United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) (who are the sole notifiers for Asulam) with advice on how to achieve a durable authorisation within the law, and urged the company to proceed swiftly with the application to ensure continued use when the bracken-spraying season recommences.
 
Under chemicals legislation, the company is obliged to provide the Commission with scientific evidence that the product is safe for the uses it is authorised for. In the view of SCoFCAH, the company has failed to do so. As far back as March it was clear (see note to editors) that the Committee is obliged under the law to consider the product for use on spinach, as this is the legal basis upon which it is authorised, even though it is used primarily within Scotland as a bracken control agent. It was open then, and remains so, for the company to resubmit an assessment for authorisation of Asulam as a bracken control agent.
 
Alyn said:
 
"This issue has been frustrating from the start, and I am even more frustrated that today I have to repeat the advice I gave the company by letter back in early April. Advice they not only did not take but did not even see fit to respond to.
 
"Today's decision reached by SCoFCAH comes as little surprise. It is up to the scientists on that committee to evaluate the risks associated with a product based on the information provided in the scientific assessment that had taken place, for the use to which the product is to be put. For a herbicide which is so widely used by our farmers and land managers to control the spread of bracken, questions must be asked as to why United Phosphorus Limited, as the sole notifier for this product, relied upon a scientific assessment for Asulam based on its use on spinach, not least when the European Food Safety Agency had raised serious concerns with that dossier.
 
"Because of this remarkable decision on the part of the company, we now need for the UK authorities to seek, win, and then extend an emergency authorisation to tide us over until a proper authorisation can be made. Otherwise, when the next season for bracken clearing begins, our farmers will find themselves without a key tool in their belt. If UPL decide to resubmit Asulam for assessment now, while the process is not a quick one, I would be confident we will see Asulam still in use either under a temporary authorisation or the proper authorisation they should have applied for in the first place."
 
Excerpt from letter from Commissioner John Dalli (European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy) to Alyn Smith MEP (7th April 2011): 
 
Unfortunately, the Commission is not in a position to identify a safe use for "non-food crops", because this use was not supported in the dossier produced by the applicant and, in addition, because the use against bracken, supported by the Scottish authorities, has a completely different mode and rate of application which is not covered by the available evaluation made in the dossier. Therefore, a restricted inclusion on the basis of the application is legally not defendable.
 
In case the company withdraws the application for the authorisation of asulam now, he can resubmit either a more complete dossier which could solve the concerns regarding the consumer exposure for the currently supported use on spinach, or a dossier which could allow to evaluate and adequately support the use in natural protected areas against bracken. My services have informed the company accordingly.
 
Finally, for limited and controlled uses, Member States could grant on a temporary basis emergency authorisations under the new provision of Article 53 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 for 120 days, when a danger cannot be contained by any other reasonable means.