Kyriakides confident on health, struggles on pesticides

It was almost a tale of two hearings for Stella Kyriakides, the commissioner-designate for health.

Her confirmation hearing in the European Parliaments environment and public health committee was characterized by friendly, substantive exchanges on health policy — and skeptical grilling on matters like pesticides and endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

“Im trying to understand why I havent been convincing on pesticides,” Kyriakides said, reiterating her pledge to reduce use and encourage low-risk alternatives toward the end of her hearing. “Its affecting public health and I will look at it very carefully.”

Health questions were another story. Kyriakides, a clinical psychologist and professional patient advocate, offered confident, nuanced responses to questions, showing her command of the issues even when avoiding commitments.

“MEPs were quite happy with her except on pesticides issues,” said one ENVI insider. “She was vague, and did not answer MEPs asking for concrete commitments on reducing use of pesticides.”

The less pesticide, the better

MEPs may not have bought it, but they shouldnt have been surprised by it: Kyriakides picked up the official line from Ursula von der Leyens guidelines and repeated several times that shed support a targeted aim for pesticide reduction.

“For myself, I can commit to decreasing the dependence we have on pesticides and trying to invest in and encourage finding low-risk alternatives. I think this is our responsibility,” she said.

On the so-called Bee Guidance Document, which the EU food safety watchdog EFSA drafted in 2013 to assess pesticides impact on bees, she said she would work to find consensus and work with Parliament and EU countries. Currently, the full adoption of the document has been stuck in discussions among EU countries, as critics argue its too cumbersome. Kyriakides promised “there will be no lowering the bar on the protection of bees.”

She also stressed that she did not “underestimate” the impact of pesticides on human health. “In no way do I underestimate the effect that pesticides have on health, and it would be unheard of to be health commissioner and not to take this on,” she said.

“We know that there is strong legislation in Europe. We know that. Its not being implemented effectively,” she added.

Ditto on endocrine disrupting chemicals, when Kyriakides faced pressure to commit to criteria for identifying EDCs across sectors: “I know that they impact on human health and I know that we need to do something about it.”

Status quo on HTA

Kyriakides signaled she wont break with her predecessor on perhaps the thorniest piece of health-related leftovers. On health technology assessment, she said shed seek consensus on the Commissions 2018 proposal. Its currently mired in the Council due to countries objections to the required use of EU-level reports on how well new treatments work. Shes not inclined to giveRead More – Source

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