Parliament calls for stricter chemical labels

Political divisions undermine vote on dangerous preparations draft directive

The European Parliament today voted for stricter EU labelling requirements for dangerous preparations. If the proposals are incorporated into EU legislation, more detailed labelling will become mandatory for thousands of chemical preparations. However, this outcome is far from certain, since a sizeable minority of MEPs voted against the proposals, and there is also opposition outside the Parliament.

The vote constitutes the Parliament's response to a draft directive proposed by the European Commission last July, which overhauls EU law on the classification, packaging and labelling of chemical preparations. Following a debate on a draft report from its environment committee, the Parliament voted for more than 20 amendments, most of them concerning labelling requirements.

The draft directive is intended to replace the 1988 preparations directive. Under the Commission's proposal, the law is to be extended to include pesticides and biocides. It will also introduce a new category of preparations classed as "dangerous for the environment".

During a debate, MEPs of all political parties gave a warm welcome to the draft directive. Monica Baldi, who drafted Parliament's report, called it "a logical and important step towards integrated legislation for chemicals in the Union".

However, there was widespread support for tightening up proposed labelling requirements. "People want information about dangerous substances," Swedish MEP Anneli Hulthen told ENDS Daily, "and the European Parliament is concerned that they get as much information as possible." In particular, the Parliament voted for compulsory information about all dangerous substances contained in a preparation, even if present in small quantities, whereas the Commission's proposal envisages requiring information on a maximum of six dangerous substances.

Monica Baldi took the unusual step of voting against most of the amendments proposed in her own report today. Following substantial changes made to her initial draft by the environment committee, Ms Baldi argued today that the final proposals were too bureaucratic and burdensome for business. Despite her stand, the full Parliament endorsed all but one of the committee's proposals.

Further progress for the amendments looks more doubtful. Centre right and right wing parties opposed them today, and many only just scraped through the votes. When the draft directive returns for the Parliament's second hearing, larger majorities will be required to maintain the proposals.

In addition, other EU institutions and European industry are opposed to strengthening labelling requirements beyond the Commission's proposal. A spokesperson for the chemical industry's trade association, Cefic, told ENDS Daily that: "overprotection and overlabelling will cause problems for consumers and will not help to give them better protection."

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111; Cefic , tel: +32 2 676 7211.

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