June - December 2003
1. PAN Europe activities
We held a successful high-profile policy conference on Reducing pesticide dependency in Europe to protect human health, environment and biodiversity, on 20 November in Copenhagen. The conference attracted 68 academics, regulators, farmers, private sector companies including water companies and NGOs, from 18 countries, including 27 officials from MS and EU agencies in 15 existing and Accession MS. Expert speakers from research, regulation and the private sector exchanged practical experiences in: the new toxicology underlying low-dose, chronic exposure and combination effects; the existence of a sufficient level of proof to apply the precautionary principle; direct and indirect effects of pesticides on biodiversity; new findings on pesticide mixtures and glyphosate; usage reporting; practical implementation of IPM/ICM; the Commission’s progress on its pesticide Thematic Strategy ; and efforts from farmers, retailers and industry in pesticide reduction programmes. It highlighted the achievements of the Danish Pesticide Use Reduction programme, using the Treatment Frequency Index as a reduction target and success indicator. The conference proceedings will be available on the PAN Europe website soon and some presentations feature in March 2004 issue 63 of Pesticides News.
As of December 2003, 87 organisations from 29 European countries have signed up to our PURE campaign.
PAN Europe held its annual network conference 21-22 November, also in Copenhagen, attended by 47 people from 18 countries. Presentations included Prof. Dominique Belpomme from the French cancer therapy association ARTAC delivering a key note speech on the increasing proportion of cancers related to pesticide exposure; capacity-building on how to lobby effectively at European Parliament and Council levels; national NGO experiences on campaigning for pesticide reduction; and an inspiring talk by Poul Henning Petersen of the Danish Agricultural Advisory Service on practical work with Danish farmers to reduce the frequency of applications on their farms. Participants discussed strategies and activities for the coming year under the themes of biodiversity; regulation and control; agriculture and supermarkets; health, food and water and exchanged experiences on NGO actions on pesticide disposal and persistent organic pollutants and opportunities under the PIC and POPs conventions.
PAN Europe also took part in the capacity-building workshop for Central & Eastern European NGOs, organised by FoE Europe entitled EU ACCESSION and AGRICULTURE: Making CAP work for people and the environment", held in Krakow, 7-8 November. Pesticide use and PAN Europe’s PURE demands were discussed in sessions on Will Accession country farmers use subsidy to buy pesticides? and Agriculture & Environmental standards. We joined 208 NGOs signing up to the Krakow Declaration for safe, sustainable farming in the enlarged EU, with support for local food systems and farming livelihoods.http://www.foeeurope.org/events/krakow/
Lobby action against paraquat
The joint NGO lobby efforts (Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, PAN Europe and European Environmental Bureau) against inclusion of paraquat in Annex I of Directive 91/414 continued, with letters to all Member State Agriculture and Environment Ministers in June and an open letter to Ministers and the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate of the European Commission in September, pointing out new research linking paraquat exposure with development of Parkinson’s disease (PAN Germany’s summary document on the Parkinson’s connection available at http://www.pan-germany.org/download/fact_paraquat.pdf). Friends of the Earth and the international trade union representing agricultural workers, IUF, also joined these lobby actions. Despite this strong civil society coalition and opposition from certain Member States, the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health voted on 3 October to approve paraquat inclusion, as proposed by the Commission. Sweden, Denmark, Finland. Luxembourg and Austria voted against, while the Netherlands abstained.
The Commission Directive 20003/112/EC gives the decision details, including important restrictions on uses which pose unacceptable risks (you can find this on the website of the Official Journal of the European Union at http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/oj/. Look for L321/32, published on 06.12.03). Unfortunately, paraquat manufacturer Syngenta and distributors in developing countries, notably Malaysia, have used the EU decision to argue that this means a green light for paraquat use, ignoring the operator protection measures and risk assessment and avoidance measures for aquatic organisms and birds. Our coalition wrote again to the Commission in November to draw attention to misleading advertisements in the Malaysian press claiming that paraquat no longer poses a danger to health, and IUF press released their objections against Syngenta’s efforts to get the Malaysian government to drop its ban on the pesticide.
2. News and Information
New additions to Annex I approved active ingredients
More than 22 active ingredients were approved for use at EU level between May and December under the evaluation process of directive 91/414. These included the herbicides mecoprop; mecoprop-p*; propyzamide*; paraquat*; carfentrazone-ethyl; dimethanamid-p; flufenacet; flurtamone; iodosulfuron; mesotrione; molinate* and isoxaflutole*, the fungicides propineb*; propiconazole*; thiram*; ziram*; trifloxystrobin; fenamidone; picoxystrobin; and silthiopham; and the nematicide fosthiazate*. Those marked with an asterisk are classified as Bad Actors by PAN North America due to one or more properties of high acute toxicity, carcinogenicity, reproductive or developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, or groundwater contaminant status (see the PANNA Pesticides database for information active ingredients http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Index.html). The EU recognises that risk mitigation measures are needed for several of these, e.g. groundwater contamination for molinate, and member states are advised to monitor acute exposure of consumers to ziram. Molinate is being phased out in the US. The fungal biopesticide Coniothryium minitans, for use as a soil treatment against sclerotinia disease, was also approved, the second biopesticide to be included in Annex I.
Goodbye to atrazine, simazine and others
In October the Standing Committee on Food Chain & Animal Health voted against granting further approval to these two triazine herbicides widely used in maize and other crops, due to concerns for groundwater contamination. However, some “essential use” derogations were accepted, including use of atrazine on sweetcorn and forestry and simazine on some vegetables and ornamentals in UK, which will allow use up to December 2007. http://www.pesticides.gov.uk/approvals.asp?id=338
News of the exclusion of atrazine came at the same time as the reports of the UK farm-scale evaluations of environmental impact of GM crops including maize, in which GM-maize had been favourably compared with conventional maize using atrazine. This comparison is now irrelevant.
The organophosphate insecticide fenthion and insecticide/acaricide amitraz were excluded from EU level approval. The UK succeeded in getting essential use derogation for amitraz on pear trees post-harvest.
Pesticide pollution of European waters continues to cause concern
The latest report from the European Environment Agency on European waters highlights the need to reduce agricultural impacts if good status of ground and surface waters are to be achieved. While there has been an overall decrease in pollution by heavy metals and phosphates due to improvements in industry practice, diffuse pollution from agricultural has remained steady. In terms of hazardous chemicals, presence of endocrine disrupting compounds is an emerging concern and sexual disruption of aquatic animals is reported by several countries. Pesticide contamination of water sources is problematic for much of western Europe, including France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy and UK. EEA points out the limited monitoring data on pesticide concentrations in water, the lack of reliable and comparable data at European level and the fact that monitoring is not carried out in all countries. On existing data, EEA conclude that contamination of surface and ground water occurs at levels of potential concern for drinking water supply and adverse effects on aquatic organisms.
New Danish Pesticide Action Plan 2004-2009
The government plans to reduce further the Treatment Frequency Index from its 2002 level of 2.04 to 1.07 by 2009. However, PAN Europe partner Danish Ecological Council believes that this goal is rather weak since a new report shows that economically optimal use is 1.7 and a further reduction to 1.4 could be achieved without changes in crops or special costs. Ecological Council is pushing for a target of 1.7 by 2005 and 1.4 by 2008. The new plan will include market garden crops, fruit and home and garden use for the first time, as well as goals to reduce pesticide residues in Danish food to the lowest levels possible. There will be more focus on protecting ground and surface water. The Ecological Council points out that the previous plan to protect 20,000ha of surface waters (40% of lakes and water bodies) only reached 8,000ha. The new target is for 25,000ha protected but the NGO says that 75,000ha is achievable, if set-aside (non-cultivation) is placed along water bodies, in addition to 10m buffer strips.
Pesticides pollute 50% of Swiss groundwater
In August, the Swiss Environment Agency reported that agricultural pesticides were found at more than half of the country’s 390 monitoring stations. Pollution levels exceeded permitted norms at several sites. The most commonly found were herbicides, with the highest concentration at 1.87microg per litre. The agency is only able to test for 88 of the 350 pesticides authorised for use in Switzerland, due to budget constraints. While downplaying acute toxicity concerns for human health, the agency is concerned about the potential long-term effect of contamination and stressed the need for minimising contamination, taking a precautionary approach.
Increase in pesticide treatment frequency in France and water pollution
The latest Agriculture Ministry report for the period 2001 documents significant increases in recent years. For example, soft wheat on average received three more treatments per season than in 1994. Picardy topped the national pesticide intensity table for this crop, with an average of 9 applications.
The French Environment Institute (IFEN) fifth annual report on pesticides in water reveals that pesticides were found in the majority of monitoring sites sampled in 2001. 73% of surface water sites and 57% of groundwater sites contained at least one active ingredient, at levels which could disrupt aquatic ecosystems or exceed permissible thresholds for drinking water. 159 different active ingredients were identified in surface waters and 144 in groundwater, of which triazine herbicides and their breakdown products were by far the commonest. Glyphosate and amino-triazole were often found too, although poorly studied in general. In coastal waters, organochlorines were noted. There are still many gaps in usage data and firm conclusions could not be drawn on overall trends or potential risks. http://www.ifen.fr/pestic/2003/pestic2003.htm
Spray frequency and number of products used in UK arable crops increased in last decade
The latest usage survey from the Central Science Laboratory sampled 1,123 farms for the growing season autumn 2001-harvest 2002, around 5% of total arable area. Compared with figures from 1992, despite a 9% decrease in the area of arable crops, there was a 25% increase in pesticide-treated area but a 2% reduction in weight of pesticides applied. Average number of sprays applied to each crop increased from four to more than five over the decade, and number of products used increased from seven to ten. Most extensively used herbicides were glyphosate, isoproturon, fluroxypyr, and diflufencan/isoproturon. Most extensively used fungicides included epoxiconazole, azoxystrobin, tebuconazole and trifloxystrobin. Pyrethroids accounted for 87% of insecticide-treated area, carbamates 7% and organophosphates 4%. Herbicides and dessicants accounted for 34% of total pesticide-treated area, fungicides another 34%, seed treatment 10%, insecticides and nematicides 10%, growth regulators 10%, molluscicides 3% and sulphur for less than 1%. Arable crops in Great Britain 2002.
Pesticides in Dutch air and precipitation
Monitoring at 18 sampling stations during 1999-2001recorded 50 different pesticides. The concentration of 17 of these exceeded maximum permissible levels (MPL) for surface water and 22 exceeded the standard for drinking water. Dichlorvos and chlorothalonil were observed above the MPL in more than 20% of samples. Pesticide input from the atmosphere to Dutch inland waters appeared to be as large as inputs from other sources such as spray drift. Although atrazine has been banned in the Netherlands since 1999, it was still recorded in the atmosphere, suggesting that external sources from Belgium, France and elsewhere may be responsible. Similarly, non-authorised trifluralin and DNOC were also found. The findings indicate the need to consider long-range transport of pesticides in the risk assessment process.
…and in Poland
Seventeen pesticides were studied in precipitation in the conurbation of Gdansk, Poland during 1998-2000. Of these the most commonly detected were simazine, atrazine, propazine, fenitrothion, chlorfenvinphos, á-HCH, DDT, DDE and DDD. Compared with elsewhere in Europe or North America, concentrations were at the lower end of the spectrum reported, probably reflecting the less intense use of pesticides in Poland. Pesticide sources probably included garden and forestry applications, as well as farming, and handling and distribution of pesticides from a garden supply store. The city location and prevailing winds would favour atmospheric transport from the region of application to the Gulf of Gdansk and Baltic Sea.
Herbicides affect salt marsh ecosystems in England
Concentrations of atrazine and simazine within the ranges present in aquatic ecosystems in eastern England were found to reduce photosynthetic efficiency and growth of microscopic and higher salt marsh plants. Sublethal concentrations resulted in decreased sediment stability and indirectly to lower photosynthesis via sediment blanketing on leaves. These factors could have adverse effects on plant productivity and over winter survival of salt marsh plants and support the hypothesis that sublethal concentrations play a role in increased erosion of saltmarsh in the last 40 years.
3. News from PAN Europe partners
Management and Disposal of obsolete pesticides in Belarus
Considerable quantities of obsolete pesticides have been accumulated and stored on farms or landfills throughout the republic of Belarus during the last 30 years. During the period 1974-1988, approximately 4,100t of pesticides waste were landfilled on seven locations in various parts of Belarus, including compounds known to be possible carcinogenic to humans, persistent and highly accumulative. Since the technical conditions of the landfills in many cases seem to be inadequate, they can cause contamination of water resources, and thereby pose a risk to environment and public health. Landfilling of pesticides was banned in 1988.
About 1, 500t of obsolete and banned pesticides have accumulated elsewhere since 1988, stored on approximately 2, 500 farms and waste storage facilities. Since many of these stores are not built and equipped to ensure for safe storage of pesticides and the packaging of pesticides often is in poor condition, they pose a threat to the environment and public health. The serious situation demanded urgent and radical measures to be taken and a joint Belarussian-Danish project “Management and Disposal of Accumulated Obsolete Pesticides in Belarus” implemented a pilot project repacking pesticides at the warehouse of supplier Slutskaya Selkhozchemistry in 2002, where about 350 tons of obsolete pesticides were stored. The second phase started in 2003 repacking pesticides in Grodno region with 630 tons stored. This phase will include meetings between local authorities, NGOs and journalists. PAN Europe member Ecosphere Belarus is planning a seminar for farmers and local NGOs with specialists from Ministry of Agriculture.
New publications on pesticides in Central and Eastern European countries
PAN Germany, in collaboration with NGO partners in CEEC, has published four useful and detailed studies on Pesticides in Central and Eastern European Countries: Usage, Registration, Identification and Evaluation. Part 1 covers Poland, Part 2 Hungary, Part 3 Czech Republic and Part 4 Slovenia. These can be downloaded at http://www.pan-germany.org/english.htm
Conference proceedings “Pesticide Use Reduction in IPM and Organic Agriculture”
Proceedings of this joint MDRGF/PAN Europe/Picardy Organic Farming Association colloquium, held 31 May 2003, Beauvais, France, in French or English versions on CDRom can be obtained from MRDGF at a cost of 12.50 Euro. An order form is on the website http://perso.wanadoo.fr/francois.veillerette/
NGO planning for WHO Ministerial conference on Environment and Health
70 representatives from 29 countries met in December 2003 under the auspices of PAN Europe partner European Public Health Alliance and European Eco-Forum to discuss demands and proposals to European governments in the run-up to the 4th Ministerial The Future for our Children, taking place in Budapest 23-25 June 2004. A Brussels statement was prepared by the strategy meeting, highlighting key concerns on the ministerial declaration and Children’s Environment and Health Action Plan for Europe (CEHAPE). Pesticides in water and food are one of the missing gaps and NGOs are calling for a phase-out of hazardous pesticides, pesticide reduction via legislation for PURE, systematic application of the substitution principle, rapid implementation of the POPs convention and inclusion of lindane and endosulfan as POPs. The Brussels statement can be found at http://www.healthy-planet-forum.org/ the website for the parallel NGO and civil society forum in Budapest, along with details of how to take part in this event.
Direct action in France against Union of Plant Protection Industries for bee deaths
French partner Movement for the Rights and Respect for Future Generations (MDRGF) collaborated with beekeepers and Confederation Paysanne to demand the immediate withdrawal of Regent and other fipronil products as well as Gaucho and other imidacloprid products. Earlier in 2003 the Food Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture (DGAL) indicated that sudden death of bees observed in the south of the country had been caused by acute toxicity of fipronil. The report of the Scientific and Technical Committee multifactor study on bee troubles published in September concluded that treatment of sunflower seed with Gaucho posed a significant risk for bees. Activists protested outside the offices of UIPP in Boulogne on 11 December, hanging banners on the building and talking to journalists. Pictures and more info on MDRGF activities can be found at their website http://perso.wanadoo.fr/francois.veillerette/
Belgian NGOs raise public awareness of pesticide problems
In July 2003, four environmental organisations in Belgium, Inter Environnement Wallonie, Inter Environnement Bruxelles, Bond Beter Leefmilieu and Brussels Environment Association (BRAL) launched a press campaign aimed at people using pesticides in their home and garden and at supermarkets. This included a press conference, 2 interviews on the national TV news and on a radio station for young people. A web site has been designed with information on pesticides and health, dangers of pesticides currently used and alternative methods. Supermarkets in Belgium are ranked according to their willingness to stop selling pesticides products, actively inform people about alternatives and about their interest in developing organic food sales. Carrefour, Colruyt and Delhaize are the top three while Lidl and Aldi are at the bottom. The site also lists major garden supply chains. www.pesticide.be
PAN UK holds first Rachel Carson Memorial lecture
To mark International Day of No Pesticide Use on 3rd December, PAN UK’s first Rachel Carson Memorial lecture was privileged to listen to renowned biologist and toxics campaigner Sandra Steingraber, PhD. Her compelling talk Contaminated without consent: Why our exposure to chemicals in air, food and water violates our human rights is now available at http://www.pan-uk.org
The PAN Europe Newsletter is compiled by Stephanie Williamson, Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members and individuals.