The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) wants to expand the authorization policy for plant protection products in order to gain a better understanding of possible links between these products and the development of Parkinson’s disease. EFSA reached this decision at a recent conference on the effects of pesticides on the neurological system, reports from the meeting show. Professor of neurology Bas Bloem (Radboud UMC) was present and explains the results in a new episode of podcast Red de Spring. The Parkinson professor speaks of ‘a breakthrough’.
Signaling a shortcoming leads to a breakthrough
There is growing concern among scientists and physicians about the possible effects of pesticides on the development of Parkinson’s disease. Several epidemiological studies show that this fast-growing brain disease is more common among farmers and in areas with intensive cultivation. Despite this, pesticides are not sufficiently tested upon admission for a possible connection with Parkinson’s disease, as the EFSA now also acknowledges.
”To say something about Parkinson’s you have to look at the relevant areas in the brain. Just studying external neurological characteristics in laboratory animals, as is currently the case, is not enough,” says Bas Bloem in a message from CLM. The podcast series ‘Save the Spring’ is an initiative of CLM Research and Advice.
After years of efforts by Bloem to draw attention to this shortcoming in the authorization procedure, scientific consensus has now been reached within EFSA:
“There was broad consensus that current procedures (…) are insufficient to assess the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease from exposure to specific pesticides,” the conference reports read.
Letter to EFSA
In May last year, Bas Bloem shared his dissatisfaction with the admission authorities in Red de Lente. Partly on his initiative, EFSA was called upon to screen already authorized substances for Parkinson’s disease. That call had led to few concrete steps. However, last autumn EFSA convened a working conference with various scientific parties and review bodies. Bloem is optimistic about the results: “The alarm bell has rung loudly, the realization has penetrated, steps are finally being taken.”
Through the hoop again
This year, EFSA is awarding scientists an assignment to develop a methodology to test the relationship between pesticides and Parkinson’s. Bas Bloem calls this ‘the hoop’, through which authorized substances, and cocktails of substances, must jump in order to remain permitted. Bloem’s wish is for glyphosate to be one of the first substances to jump through this new hoop, a substance that is important to study because of the way it affects the respiratory chain in cells.