Three questions for Ohri Yamada on the phytopharmacovigilance

The phytopharmacovigilance scheme that we coordinate, which is specific to France, focuses on the effects of plant protection products and their residues, observed under their actual conditions of use. Ohri Yamada, Head of the Phytopharmacovigilance Unit, gives us an overview of the scheme.

What is phytopharmacovigilance?

Created in October 2014 by the Act on the future of agriculture, food and forestry, phytopharmaco-vigilance relies on some 20 partners including human and veterinary poison control centres, the Agricultural Mutual Insurance Scheme (MSA), and ministries and public bodies in charge of monitoring environmental media, water, air or food. The scheme gathers data from these networks, as well as reports submitted directly by professionals who use or sell plant protection products, or who advise the users of these products. It therefore enables a large amount of data to be collected on the presence of pesticide residues in the environment, the exposure observed and the health impact on living beings and ecosystems. The aim is to ensure exhaustive monitoring of the effects of using these products. The literature and media monitoring we carry out also provides information that can give rise to alerts, bearing in mind that we pay specific attention to epidemiological studies. As part of the scheme, ANSES produces summary sheets for each active substance, all of which are available on our website.

What do the studies funded by phytopharmacovigilance examine?

To analyse reports of adverse effects or compensate for the lack of exposure data, ANSES funds studies and measurement campaigns with a budget specifically allocated to phytopharmacovigilance. In 2020, 25 studies were finalised and five new ones were initiated, corresponding to around 1.4 million euros. For example, following the report of a cluster of paediatric cancers in a wine-growing community, the decision was taken to launch two studies to provide information on exposure in wine-growing regions. One was on pesticide contamination of people living near agricultural crops, carried out in conjunction with Santé Publique France (PestiRiv), and the other on geographical and statistical associations between childhood cancers and residential proximity to agricultural activities, conducted by Inserm and Santé Publique France (GEOCAP-Agri). If the contamination of an environmental medium is not sufficiently documented, the decision may be taken to fund a measurement campaign, as was the case for ambient air and soil. In total, more than 40 studies have been financed since the phytopharmacovigilance scheme was set up.

What impact has this scheme had?

All of these data are systematically examined when marketing authorisations are reviewed. If the assessments reveal frequent contamination exceeding the thresholds, this may lead to a product’s use being restricted or even prohibited. In the event of a health alert, the data are analysed without waiting for the regulatory re-assessment of marketing authorisation. As an example, the episode of multiple poisonings with metam-sodium in Maine-etLoire in autumn 2018 led to the accelerated withdrawal from the market of products containing this active substance. Phytopharmacovigilance also contributes to the development of regulatory systems. For example, the data documenting bee mortality and hive contamination led ANSES to recommend extending the regulatory system protecting pollinators from insecticides and acaricides to also cover fungicides and herbicides. This provision is being considered as part of the 2021 Pollinator Plan. The phytopharmacovigilance scheme therefore gives ANSES a global, integrated view of the impact of plant protection products, throughout their use.