February - March 2006
1. PAN Europe activities
Advance notice of PAN Europe Annual Conference 2006
In collaboration with Legambiente and the Italian Organic Farming Association (AIAB) we will be holding our Network Annual Conference for members and other supporters Thursday 7 and Friday 8 September 2006 in Bologna, Italy. The conference will be held at the same time and site as SANA, one the largest organic fairs in the world and it will also be an excellent opportunity to visit this fair. The central theme for this years’ conference is Integrated Crop Management/Integrated Pest Management and alternatives to chemical crop protection from the point of view of producers, retailers and consumers, with a special emphasis in Italian/regional examples. We will also hold our Network Annual General Meeting on the 8th September.
Action for the elimination of eight hazardous pesticides in the EU market
The Commission proposal for the inclusion of eight hazardous pesticides in the EU market was postponed from the meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health of 26/27 January to the 3rd March. The Commission’s proposals to include these substances are particularly worrying since in August 2005, it had informed the registrants of the eight substances that it was “considering the possible non-inclusion of the substance”. Several months later, the Commission did a u-turn and decided to include these same substances with restrictions, despite member states experts’ recommendations to keep them off the positive list. The eight substances include several with mutagenic and hormone mimicking properties and the results from the evaluation conducted by Member States experts and scientific advisors recommended their exclusion from the EU market.
PAN Europe, EEB-European Environmental Bureau and EEN-EPHA Environment Network wrote to all representatives from Member States to reject the 8 substances. PAN Europe also encouraged members and partners to contact their national Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Consumers and representatives in the SCFCAH. The response from PAN Europe members was very encouraging, with members starting internet actions and media campaigns raising pesticide issues in the national media.
In the 3rd of March meeting the eight proposals failed to achieve the necessary qualified majority of Member States and a new proposal will have to be transmitted to the Council. The Commission is now working on a new proposal to submit to the Agriculture Council in the beginning of April. After this date, the Council will have to reach a decision within three months.
Participation in the Draft Assessment Report on diazinon
Under the new provisions for participation in the Draft Assessment Report (DAR) of active substances under the revision process forecasted in Directive 91/414/EEC, the public has now forty days to comment on the draft assessment report prepared by the rapporteur Member State. Diazinon is an organophosphate pesticide known for its neurotoxic effects and banned in a number of European and African countries. Portugal is the rapporteur Member State for diazinon and it proposes not to include the substance in the European market because no safe uses were found under mammalian toxicology and ecotoxicology. The risk assessment also found no acceptable level of risk for operators, workers and bystanders.
In our view, existing data gaps, concerns about neurotoxicity and the vast scientific literature indicate no safe uses for diazinon. The present DAR also does not take into consideration the vast scientific literature existing on: the possible carcinogenic effects of diazinon, reproductive effects, special sensitivity of children, possible links with Parkinson disease, neurodevelopmental effects and wildlife. Therefore, we submitted a fact sheet and a list of recent scientific studies on the effects of diazinon on human health and wildlife.
EFSA will peer review the DAR submitted by the Member State rapporteur and publish conclusions that will be taken into consideration by the European Commission when preparing a proposal for the substance.
Discussion of pesticides legislation in the Council during the Finish Presidency
The Framework Directive within the Thematic Strategy and the revision of Directive 91/414/EEC are scheduled to be addressed by the Agricultural Council meeting 19-20 June 2006 in the draft agenda of the Austrian Presidency of the European Union. PAN Europe is concerned about the continuity for this dossier during the Finnish Presidency in the second half of 2006 because we believe these issues are better addressed at the level of the Environment Council. With the support of the Finnish Society for Nature Conservation, we addressed the Finnish Environment and Agricultural Ministers insisting to have the new pesticide regulations addressed at the Environmental Council level during the Finnish Presidency of the EU.
Approval of active ingredients in EU review
The EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) has approved two new active ingredients: the insecticide clothianidin; and the herbicide pethoxamid, which are to be included in Annex I after the confirmation by the European Commission. The SCFCAH voted for the inclusion of five existing active ingredients to Annex I: tolclofos-methyl (neurotoxic), a fungicide; pirimicarb (neurotoxic), an insecticide; herbicides rimsulfuron and clodinafop and triticonazole, a fungicide. The European Commission also authorised Member States to extend provisional approvals for Syngenta’s new insecticide, thiamethoxam, by up to two years.
The EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) didn’t reach a qualified majority to approve the substances azinphos-methyl, carbendazim, dinocap, fenarimol, flusilazole, methamidophos, procymidone and vinclozolin in the meeting of 3rd March. A new proposal is in preparation and will be transmitted to the Council in the beginning of April.
Pesticides are EU citizens' top food-related health concern
A recent Eurobarometer survey about EU citizens' general fears and fears about food shows that 63% are concerned about pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables. The Eurobarometer study, commissioned by the Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), was published in February 2006 and examines EU citizens' general risk perceptions and risks associated with food.
As to food safety, the survey results show high levels of concern about:
Pesticide residues in fruit, vegetables and cereals (63%), new viruses like avian influenza (62%), residues in meats like antibiotics and hormones (62%), unhygienic conditions in food handling outside the home, such as in food processing plants, shops or restaurants (62%), pollutants like mercury or dioxins (59%), genetically modified products in food or drinks (58%) and additives like colours, preservatives or flavourings used in food or drinks (57%).
Consumer groups (32%), physicians or doctors (also 32%) and scientists (30%) are considered as the most trusted information sources regarding serious food risks, ahead of public authorities (22%) and the media (17%). The citizens trust food manufacturers (6%), farmers (6%) and supermarkets or shops (3%) the least.
Brain tumours and pesticides
The ARC (Association pour la Recherche sur le Cancer) and Fnath (Association des accidentés de la vie) presented the first results of an epidemiological research programme focusing on professional cancers started in 2002.
The results show that individuals professionally exposed to pesticides have 2.6 times more risks of developing brain tumours. The risk is even multiplied by 3.2 for particular types of brain cancer. Research previously showed a positive link between pesticide use and development of cancer but this is the first time a positive link is established for this important type of cancer, said Professor Marcel Goldberg, coordinator of the epidemiological research of professional cancers.
Around 10% of all cancers in France have a professional origin, representing 20,000 cases a year. The proportion directly attributed to professional exposure is as high as 10% to 15% for lung cancer and 15% to 20% for digestive and air systems.
Researchers flag up endocrine disruptor risks
A class of poorly researched endocrine-disrupting chemicals poses a much greater risk to the environment and humans than previously thought, according to the results of the EU funded research project Comprendo. The Comprendo project investigated human and environmental exposures to androgens and anti-androgens. The study of endocrine disruption began with a focus on compounds capable of mimicking or interfering with oestrogen and until now 90% of endocrine disruption research efforts have gone into oestrogens. The project forms part of the wider Credo programme on endocrine disrupters and its results were presented at a conference in Germany in March.
The project looked at around 20 substances including pharmaceuticals and agricultural pesticides. They found worryingly high levels in the environment, in areas such as the Po and Elbe rivers. Among them were fenarimol and vinclozolin, two of a group of eight pesticides currently the focus of an EU regulatory dispute.
Comprendo found "remarkably high risk factors" associated with the EDCs studied. The substances interfered with sperm and egg formation in a large range of animal species at extraordinarily low concentrations (parts per billion).
Pesticides and cancer: review suggests increased risk in young
A systematic review of all the evidence to date by researchers from Liverpool University concludes that low levels of synthetic pesticides and organochlorines with endocrine-disrupting properties could be major facts in the development of cancers, particularly for hormone-dependent malignancies, such as breast, testicular and prostate cancers. It concludes that while population studies had not conclusively proved a link between lower levels of the potentially carcinogenic chemicals and people of any age, some animal studies have indicated the link. There was further evidence that genetically predisposed individuals and vulnerable groups such as developing foetus, the developing child and adolescent might be more vulnerable to the chemicals.
The research indicates that the dangers of pesticides for children have been underestimated as chemicals can potentially cause cancer in children at parts per billion and parts per trillion levels, rather than parts per million and thousands. Furthermore, these substances could affect the development of babies before they are born and increase their likelihood of developing cancer later in life. The organochlorines also accumulate in breast milk, raising the possibility that babies are vulnerable while breastfeeding. The evidence suggested the link is "feasible" and enough for parents to consider switching to organic diets to avoid contamination.
Women exposure to organochlorine pesticides in Southern Spain
Southern Spain has the largest area of intensive greenhouse agriculture in Europe, and may constitute a special case of occupational and female exposure, because this type of farming requires considerable pesticide use and employs many women. A team of researchers from Granada measured adipose tissue levels of 14 organochlorine pesticides in 458 women living in the area and analyzed the relationship between pesticide level/presence and sociodemographic characteristics, reproductive history or life-style factors that may influence this exposure.
Almost 70% of all women had measurable levels of endosulfan and/or metabolites, with the higher exposure in women with shorter residence in rural settings and more frequent in women with 3 children or more. 52.62% were exposed to aldrin–dieldrin–endrin group. Endrin was more frequent in women who were younger, with higher educational level or no agricultural working experience; dieldrin was more frequent in women who were older, with lower educational level or more children. Finally, lindane residues were found in 39.30%. Lindane levels were higher in women who breastfed longer or had more children. Research is required on women occupationally exposed to a selected group of organochlorine pesticides, especially those of reproductive age, as a basis for preventive action.
EU research to look into chemical exposure of babies
A new 15 million euro research project has been launched to investigate exposure to chemicals in food and the environment and their connection with childhood cancer and immune disorders.
NewGeneris was launched on 1 February 2006 as a new European Integrated Research Project under the Community's 6th Framework Research Programme (FP6). It brings together 25 institutions from 16 European countries with a budget of 15 million euros over five years. The new research project is part of the EU Environment and Health Strategy (SCALE), launched in 2003 and it will also feed into the ongoing debate surrounding the REACH proposal to assess and possibly ban chemical substances in the EU.
NewGeneris will look specifically into "maternal exposure during pregnancy to carcinogenic and immunotoxic chemicals" and their effect on young children after they are born. To assess chemical exposure, the researchers will analyse blood and urine samples from mothers and children taken across several 'bio banks' in Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Spain and Greece. The toxic chemicals selected for further investigation include dioxins, PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyl), ethanol (alcohol) and other substances ingested by mothers or found in contaminated food, tobacco smoke or polluted air.
Children Even More Vulnerable to Pesticides Than Previously Believed
Researchers at the University of California recently warned that newborn infants are as much as 65 to 164 times more vulnerable than adults to a pair of common organophosphate agricultural pesticides, such as chlorpyrifos and diazinon.
130 women and their babies were analysed for the protective levels of a key enzyme (known as PON1) that normally helps detoxify the class of organophosphate pesticides. When mothers are exposed to chlorpyrifos and diazinon, previous research has shown that their children are likely to suffer low birth weight, premature birth, and other problems. Mothers with higher pesticide levels are more likely to give birth earlier (similar to the effect of maternal smoking), and their babies were more likely to have abnormal reflexes.
"Children are born with lower levels of our bodies' natural defences against toxic pesticides," said Dr. Gina Solomon, M.D., a physician and senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC). "Unfortunately, the officials responsible for keeping kids safe are ignoring the clear scientific evidence confirming that we need stronger protection for the most vulnerable among us."
Agrochemical prices expected to increase in 2006
A forecast by a UK market research company indicates that agrochemical prices will continue to rise in 2006 as world oil and gas prices remain at record levels. Raw materials, intermediates, packaging and transport in the agrochemical industry rose throughout 2005 following significant rises in oil prices after 2004 and it all indicates that this tendency will be maintained in 2006.
High-volume, low-cost agrochemicals are most at risk from price rises as the narrow profit margins make them unable to absorb raw material price rises. This is particularly the case where an energy intensive production method is used, such as the glycine process for glyphosate in which energy consumption accounts for at least one-third of the overall active ingredient cost. The price of generic glyphosate is expected to rise by 15/20% this season, compared with an anticipated rise of around 5% in the price of Monsanto’s proprietary brand of the herbicide Roundup.
3. News from PAN Europe partners
Misleading labelling of pesticide in Denmark
The Ecological Council from Denmark has observed that Bayer CropScience Denmark was marketing the pesticide Euparen Multi with a misleading label containing claims that it would improve the colour of apples: “Euparen sprayings gives in addition a substantial colour improvement on both red and yellow sorts of apples i.e. Jonagold and smooth, nice fruits of Cox Orange.” Euparen is used as a fungicide for the control of Botrytis (grey mould) on outdoor crops such as apples, pears, currents and berries (strawberries and raspberries, among others) with tolylfluanid as the active ingredient.
This type of label is in breach of the FAO Code of Conduct, adopted in most countries. The Danish departmental order says that a pesticide must not be marketed under circumstances that are likely to mislead the users about the use of the pesticide. Therefore, the Ecological Council asked the Danish Environmental Minister to order Bayer to remove the misleading label.
The response from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has timely and positive calling for the removal and modification of the label from 2007 onwards. Furthermore, the Danish EPA recognised that the label can be read in a way and to a purpose not covered by the approval granted to the product.
In Denmark, the product has 14 days before harvest as the latest time of application in apples. The same product is approved for use in the UK, with only 7 days before harvest as the latest time of application. Tolylfluanid residues are most commonly found in grapes and cucumbers in Europe.
Newly unveiled UK National Pesticide Strategy delays tackling vital health concerns
Pesticide Action Network UK has welcomed the publication of the new UK National Strategy for Pesticides – “Pesticides and the Environment: a strategy for the sustainable use of plant protection products” but is disappointed at its failure to include any consideration of the effects of agricultural pesticides on public health at this stage.
The strategy was published on March 23rd by the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD), an agency of the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The scope of the strategy is agricultural, amenity and home and garden pesticides and does not extend to biocides or veterinary medicines, in line with the European Commission’s proposed directive on the sustainable use of pesticides. However, the proposed directive does cover the impacts of pesticides on human health, something which is explicitly ruled out of the UK strategy for at least the next 12 months, when it will be reviewed. This is despite a significant number of responses to the government’s consultation on the strategy, held during 2005, that strongly recommended the inclusion of health in its scope.
The National Strategy also excludes any action to reduce pesticide residues in food. However, there is an action plan for minimising residues in food that is being developed by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), which is a government body independent from Defra, or PSD. A consultation on the crop guides, which are part of the FSA action plan, was also launched in March, but there appears to be no link between the two. The crop guides are substantial documents with a long list of potential actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of residues. However, there is no consideration of the potential effects of these actions on other adverse pesticide impacts on health or the environment.
During the consultation on the National Strategy, the FSA asked that their residue minimisation plan be brought within the National Strategy to ensure that conflicts do not arise. Once again, departmental politics seems to have won over common sense, and this request was ignored. Since there does not appear to be the same implementation route for the residues action plan (the crop guides are simply being published for voluntary uptake by growers) it is likely that the National Pesticides Strategy will dominate and there will be little effort to reduce people’s exposure to pesticides from food.
PAN UK also believes that to achieve the objectives set out in the National Strategy for sustainable farming, food and consumption there has to be a plan for reducing the amount of pesticides that are used in UK food production. “We are very pleased that the government is addressing water and biodiversity, and is targeting amenity and amateur users as well. But simply tackling the effects of pesticides without getting to the root of the problem will put huge demands on scarce resources and is unlikely to make the kind of difference we need” said Clare Butler Ellis of PAN UK. “We have to reduce our dependence on pesticides by finding alternative ways of controlling pests and setting ourselves targets for lowering pesticide use. Only then can we hope to achieve sustainable food production”.
This PAN Europe Newsletter was compiled by Sofia Parente and Sanja Treskic
Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members, PURE supporters and individuals.