June - July 2006
1. PAN Europe activities
PAN Europe Annual Conference 2006
In collaboration with SANA, Legambiente and the Italian Organic Farming Association (AIAB) we will be holding our Network Annual Conference for members and other supporters 7-9 September in Bologna, Italy. The conference will be held at the same time and site as SANA, one of the largest organic fairs in the world and it will also be an excellent opportunity to visit this fair. The central theme for this year’ conference is Integrated Crop Management/Integrated Pest Management and organic production with experiences from 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 and an optional field trip on the 9th of September.
New EU legislation on pesticides finally adopted
A Directive for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides and a new Regulation for the placing of pesticides in the EU market have been finally adopted by the European Commission on the 12th of July after a year’s delay. The new proposals contain some positive developments in pesticides policies in the EU but overall they fail to introduce the strong measures needed to change the pesticide use paradigm in EU and to respond to strong public health concerns voiced by the public, researchers and health and environmental organisations.
The draft Framework Directive includes some positive measures for restricting aerial crop-spraying, establishing ‘reduced’ or ‘pesticide-free’ zones and measures to protect water resources, but leaves Member States ample leeway. The legislation fails to show how to break the unsustainable link between agricultural productivity and pesticides use. The proposed National Action Plans just contain a vague list of voluntary measures. They lack robust and enforceable targets for reducing pesticide use. What other measures are missing? The list is long: procedures for collecting and storing obsolete pesticides; mechanisms to promote a pesticide tax or levy system, which would support safer non-chemical alternatives and finance advisory bodies and independent training for farmers in effective pesticide-use reduction programmes. Although Integrated Pest management is proposed to become compulsory by 2014 onwards, mechanisms to finance extension and training in the National Action Plans are absent, leaving a dark cloud of doubt over the accomplishment of this progressive measure.
The proposal to review the EU’s pesticide approval system introduces a new zonal authorisation system for products and a mechanism to encourage the replacement of riskier pesticides with safer alternatives. The outlined zones include climatically different areas like Brittany in northern France and Cyprus in the southeastern Mediterranean. If Cyprus authorised a specific product, France would have to accept its sale in French markets, too, with little margin to change the approval conditions. A positive measure is the introduction of criteria to exclude substances from the market based on their intrinsic hazards. But the criterion affects only some endocrine disrupters and class I and II carcinogenic, reprotoxic and mutagenic substances, leaving behind many substances that give grounds for concern. Another positive measure is the introduction of a strong definition of Integrated Pest Management (FAO definition). All farmers will have to comply with IPM as a minimum standard in crop protection from 2014 onwards. The Commission proposals will now be discussed and approved by the European Parliament and the Council before their final approval in 2007 or 2008.
Agriculture Council will decide the fate of 8 hazardous pesticides in the EU market
After Member States representatives in the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health failed to achieve qualified majority to approve 8 hazardous pesticides in the EU market (Azinphos-methyl, Carbendazim, Dinocap, Fenarimol, Flusilazole, Methamidophos, Procymidone and Vinclozolin) in March 2006, it’s now up to the Ministers to achieve a decision. A proposal was discussed and approved by the Commission and transmitted to the Council for discussion and voting. Despite disagreement from some Commissioners, the proposal transmitted to the Council was similar to the one earlier rejected in the Standing Committee. The proposed approval is for a limited number of crops and includes mitigation measures which most of the time would be impossible to monitor and enforce, such as: imposing safety margins of several metres from water courses; obliging operators to wear protective equipment during the application and cleaning of equipment; or prohibiting re-entry into the treated area. The discussion is scheduled for the September Agriculture Council meeting.
With the support of EEB and EEN, PAN Europe established and will continue contacts with members of the Commission, Council and European Parliament advocating for the ban of these substances with a 2-year derogation period that would allow farmers to shift towards less hazardous substances. PAN Europe has also issued a press release and sent letters to the members of the European Commission and Council advocating the ban and the opportunity to get Europe free of these hazardous substances with benefits for farmers and consumers.
2. Published news and information
Approval of active ingredients in EU review
The EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) has approved four new active ingredients: the fungicide metrafenone, the biopesticide Bacillus subtilis and the insecticides spinosad and thiametoxam (the latter a likely carcinogen according to the US Environmental Protection Agency classification). The SCFCAH also voted for the inclusion of two existing active ingredients to Annex I: the growth regulator ethephon (cholinesterase inhibitor) and the nematicide fenamiphos (cholinesterase inhibitor, acute toxic and potential groundwater contaminant).
Three substances were excluded from Annex I and will be removed from the EU market: the organophosphate insecticides phosalone (cholinesterase inhibitor and potential groundwater contaminant) and fenitrothion (cholinesterase inhibitor and potential endocrine disruptor), and the insecticide thiodicarb (cholinesterase inhibitor and carcinogen).
The impact of herbicides present in sludge in the soil ecosystem
Most wastewater treatment plants produce sludge which has to be disposed of. Applying raw or treated sewage sludge to agricultural soils can significantly reduce the sludge disposal cost component of sewage treatment, as well as providing a large part of the nitrogen and phosphorus requirements of many crops. But sewage sludge may contain numerous pollutants such as heavy metals and organic compounds although available data concerning some types of active organic contaminants in sludge is very limited or does not exist at all. This is the case for some herbicides, mainly used in agriculture, but which can also be found in some domestic and industrial activities. Only a few previous studies have measured significant amounts of pesticides entering wastewater treatment plants, but very little is known about their fate inside the plants and the final concentration in the produced sludge.
A recent French study has reported for the first time the fate of herbicides contained in sludge, when it is applied to agricultural soils. The scientists assessed the presence of certain herbicides, namely glyphosate, diuron and their main metabolites, in the sludge produced in several wastewater treatment plants of urban origin in France. Thereafter, they used terrestrial model ecosystems to assess the biotransformation of such compounds and their mobility onto soil leachates and higher plants.
This laboratory study shows that the fate of herbicides entering the soil after application of contaminated sludge depends on the type of sludge treatment (pasteurization, composting with wood, lime stabilization of liquid sludge). Furthermore, the persistence of the chemicals is generally increased in the presence of sludge. The results demonstrate that the herbicides contained in sewage sludge, and their transformation products, are more persistent than those directly applied to the soil. They are partly mobile, and therefore, they can be transferred to soil leachates and higher plants, thus posing a risk to surrounding ecosystems and organisms. The current study provides new and interesting insights regarding the fate of herbicides in soil-water-plant systems when contaminated sewage sludge is applied to agricultural soils. It concludes that these compounds may have an eco-toxicological impact on the soil ecosystems, and that there is therefore a need to better regulate their presence in sludge used to improve agricultural soils.
Study links pesticides with Parkinson's
People with long-term, low-level exposure to pesticides have a 70 percent higher incidence of Parkinson's disease compared to people who have not been exposed much to pesticides. Such workers include mostly farmers, ranchers and fishermen, the researchers report in the July issue of Annals of Neurology. Their study supports previous research that suggests pesticides can be linked with Parkinson's, which is caused by the destruction of key brain cells. "The findings support the hypothesis that exposure to pesticides is a risk factor for Parkinson's disease," they wrote.
The team examined data from a 2001 American Cancer Society survey of 143,325 people and contacted those people who reported they had been diagnosed with Parkinson's. The American Cancer Society was studying factors for cancer risk and all the people had reported on eating and lifestyle habits and environmental exposures. More than 5,200 men and 2,600 women reported exposure to pesticides. After adjusting for age, sex, and other risk factors for Parkinson's disease, the researchers found a 70 percent higher incidence of the disease among these nearly 8,000 people than among people who reported no exposure. More men than women said they had been exposed to pesticides and those reporting exposure were more likely to report their occupation as farmer, rancher or fisherman, the researchers said.
People who had other jobs and who reported pesticide exposure most likely were using the chemicals at home or while gardening, the researchers speculated. Exposure to asbestos, chemicals, acids, solvents, or coal or stone dust was not associated with a higher risk, the researchers said.
"Future studies should seek to identify the specific compounds associated with risk," the researchers said. A class of chemicals called organophosphates has been linked with Parkinson's risk in other studies. There is no cure for Parkinson's, which starts off with tremors and ends up paralyzing and often killing patients. Globally, it is estimated 6.3 million people have Parkinson's, more than a million in the United States alone.
Spanish farmers at risk of lymphoma
In the current study, the risk of lymphomas among subjects ever having had a job as a farmer is compared to all other occupations. Farmers were analyzed according to the type of farming job performed: crop farming, animal farming and general farming. Occupational exposure was summarized into 15 main categories: organic dust, radiation, contact with animals, PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons), non-arsenic pesticides (carbamates, organophosphates, chlorinated hydrocarbons, triazines and triazoles, phenoxy herbicides, chlorophenols, dibenzodioxin and dibenzofuran), arsenic pesticides, contact with meat, contact with children, solvents, asbestos, soldering fumes, organic colorants, PCBs, ethylene oxide and hair dyes.
Although farmers were not at an increased risk of lymphoma as compared to all other occupations, farmers exposed to non-arsenic pesticides were found to be at increased risk of lymphoma. This increased risk was observed among farmers working exclusively either as crop farmers or as animal farmers. The study concluded that long term exposure to non-arsenic pesticides may induce the formation and development of lymphomas among farmers.
Altered breast tissue development in young girls linked to pesticides
Exposure to pesticides crosses the generations, according to a new study that finds daughters of mothers who lived near areas of heavy agricultural spraying may be unable to breastfeed their children. The research was conducted in Mexico, but many of these pesticides, although they go by a different name, have the same ingredients and are used in the United States and Europe. The connection from mother to child was found among Sonoran Mayan girls whose mothers were exposed to chemical spraying. They did not develop the ability to produce milk, unlike their counterparts who lived a more organic lifestyle.
The study found changes in breast development when comparing pre-adolescent girls whose mothers grew up in an agricultural valley where heavy doses of pesticides were sprayed with those who were raised in surrounding foothills where none were used. Some of the girls in the agricultural valley had no mammary tissue or a minimal amount. Although several studies have examined the effects of pesticides on when puberty begins, none have looked at how exposure influences the development of mammary gland tissue, she said. To investigate the question, Guillette found two population samples about 50 miles apart in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora’s Yaqui Valley that were almost identical except for their exposure to pesticides.
Guillette began her research in 1966, comparing the physical coordination and mental development in preschool children from the two communities. In an earlier published study, she found that valley children were less adept at catching a ball, reflecting poor eye-hand coordination, and showed dramatic differences in their ability to draw a person. Her more recent study focused on breast development in girls between the ages of 8 and 10 and involved 30 girls from the valley and 20 girls who lived in the foothills. Guillette and local nurses measured total breast diameter and mammary diameter. While breast size was much larger in the girls in the valley, they had much less mammary tissue, and sometimes none at all, than the girls in the foothills.
Pesticide use reduction absent in the newly unveiled France national plan
A joint ministerial plan for the reduction of pesticides risks for 2006-2009 has been recently launched in France by the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment. But despite the public and media attention, the plan targets only the reduction of the most hazardous pesticides (CRM- carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic) without describing measures to reduce the use for pesticides with other hazards categories. These hazardous pesticides will in any case be removed from the market by the European Union, which is preparing a new Regulation for the approval of pesticides with criteria to reject active substances based on hazards.
As for other measures in the French plan, MDRGF- Mouvement pour les Droits et le Respect de les Gènèration Futures, PAN Europe member in France, stresses they will not introduce any change in the pesticides paradigm in France. The plan intends to encourage agriculture systems with low use of pesticides but only includes “good practices”, with no incentives for systems capable of achieving pesticide use reduction, such as organic agriculture or Integrated Pest Management. The plan also introduces 5 meter buffer zones to limit pesticides impacts but as the INRA study from 2005 (“Pesticides, agriculture and environment”) shows, this measure is insufficient to limit environmental impacts of pesticides. The plan also includes provisions to finance studies that will improve knowledge of pesticides impacts when there are hundreds of studies already showing the hazards of pesticides posed to users and bystanders. Finally, the plan will evaluate the progress and set up a national steering committee but although MDRGF has participated in all consultations for this plan, it was not even informed about the presentation or received a draft for comment. This start does not augur well for good consultation practices and engagement of the public in the important discussion of pesticide problems in France.
UK government weak in defending the rights of neighbours
The UK government has published its response on the 20th of July to the report by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, ‘Crop spraying and the health of residents and bystanders’, published in September 2005. Actions to protect public health will be delayed by years. PAN UK is shocked by this response and is now looking to the EU for new initiatives to protect people regularly exposed to pesticides where they live.
Despite acknowledging public concern about pesticide exposure, the government has done nothing to alleviate it. The effect of low pesticide doses on chronic illnesses has essentially been ignored, despite all the evidence. Six women with breast cancer, living within 200 yards of each other in the Bedfordshire village of Shillington, are surrounded on all sides by sprayed fields. They are concerned about the potential role of environmental pollutants on their health and there is nothing in the government’s response that will reassure them.
The government has rejected: a statutory right to know about pesticides we are exposed to; precautionary statutory buffer no-spray zones next to people’s homes; and a tightening up of regulations on spraying. A new national monitoring and reporting scheme for pesticide exposure, recommended by the Royal Commission, will be considered but not implemented until at least 2008. ‘We are dismayed that the government has concluded that bystander exposure problems can be solved by a voluntary approach, and seems to have been seriously misled about existing voluntary schemes’, says Clare Butler Ellis of PAN UK. ‘Neither the voluntary initiative nor assured produce schemes aim to protect the public, focusing only on environmental impacts, and have no hope of reaching 100 per cent of farmers.’
The Pesticides Safety Directorate is, this year, spending £5 million on research into the effects of pesticides on the environment, and only £0.5 million on pesticides and health. The government now endorses long-overdue new research on the exposure risk assessment, but there is yet further delay on health research.
3. News from PAN Europe partners
Regulation, monitoring and pesticides residues policies in food discussed in Slovakia
Consumers in Europe are concerned about pesticide residues in food. A recent survey showed that 71% of the EU-25 citizens are worried about pesticide residues in fruit, vegetables or cereals. Over 40% of the food of plant origin contains residues from pesticides. Current risk assessment methodology cannot definitely quantify the public health risks of residues in the diet, but consensus is building that dietary pesticide residues are a significant public health concern, especially for young children. Pesticides detected as residues in food affect not only consumers, but also wildlife and ecosystems as a whole are at risk from the use of pesticides. Knowledge and awareness about this issue must be rising in any country, particularly in countries under intensification pressure in agriculture, like the new EU member states and the accession countries. In addition, the Central and Eastern European consumer will be increasingly confronted with food imports from South Europe and other countries with high pesticide usage.
This was the background for a one day seminar, organised in Slovakia by the Centre for Sustainable Alternatives (CEPTA) and PAN Germany, which aimed firstly to present the current situation on pesticides residues occurrence and its monitoring in member states. Secondly, the seminar aimed to discuss the food residues legislation at the EU level; and thirdly, to connect NGO and official sector in field of pesticides residues in food. The last point was to build capacity of NGOs from the new Central and Eastern EU Member States and the accession countries for active participation on the process towards reducing pesticide residues in food.
At the seminar, experts such as Mrs. Prof. Hajslova from Institute for Chemical Technology, Prague – The Czech Republic (“Pesticides residues in food – threats and risks”); Mrs. Dipl. Ing. Matusova from the State Veterinary and Food Administration, Bratislava – Slovakia (“Pesticides in Food, MRL and monitoring system in Slovakia“); Mr. Lars Neumeister, Pesticide Expert/PAN Germany (“The Myth of Safe Fruit and Vegetables“) took part. At the event, national reports from 6 new EU-MS and accession countries were presented . All participants held fruitful discussions and exchange of opinions between officials, research sector and NGOs / consumers representatives from 8 European countries.
On the second day, an interesting field trip to an orchard was organised. The orchard has a system of integrated fruit production partially implemented, but strives to have the system recognised by consumers. The field trip also included a visit to a vineyard practising environmental-friendly wine production.
The seminar was kindly supported by the Sigrid Rausing Trust (UK) and the Global Greengrant Fund (GGF).
Outcomes from the Seminar shall be available on the web page of the Centre for Sustainable Alternatives (CEPTA) at http://www.cepta.sk
Backyard poison in Belarus
Participants of the international environmental summer camp "Clean Dvina - Clean Baltic 2006" held from the 17-22 July have found over a ton of obsolete pesticides in villages of Rassony district on the outskirts of Polotsk, Belarus. Environmental group FRI, Belarus; International Environmental Group Ecodefense!, Russia, group Graphclassic, Belarus are among the organizers of the summer camp supported by the Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB) and MATRA Program. Participants of the summer camp, activists of non-governmental environmental organizations, advocate prompt solving of the problem of obsolete non-registered pesticides and impact of hazardous chemicals on ecosystem of the Zapadnaya Dvina and the Baltic Sea.
The major topic of this annual environment protection event was non-registered obsolete pesticides. According to various assessments there are currently about 6,560 tons of obsolete pesticides in warehouses and stockpiles in the region. Participants of the summer camp, representatives of non-governmental environmental organizations from Belarus, Russia, and Germany, received necessary knowledge of the danger represented by non-registered pesticides for population and environment and also took a number of practical actions. During the swoop through 15 settlements of Rassony district they observed several storage units of obsolete pesticides, in particular, a decrepit warehouse with about a ton of unknown pesticides was discovered in Golubovo village. The state of the warehouse causes serious anxiety of environmentalists.
A shed with several dozen kilos of pesticides has also been found in the backyard of Nikholai Goga, a resident of Gory village. Residents of the village were not informed about the potential danger of the warehouse contents, they did not even know about the stored pesticides.
All the revealed places of pesticides storage have been described according to the specially developed methodology, the activists have noted down the position data of the warehouses. The information about hazardous pesticides will be transferred both to local authorities and to state environment protection bodies in the nearest future.
Dozens of kilos of obsolete pesticides were found in this shed during the international environmental summer camp "Clean Dvina - Clean Baltic 2006" in Belarus. ©Foundation for the Realisation of Ideas
“A plan of further work on public inventory of non-registered obsolete pesticides has been developed during the work of the summer camp. The participants of the camp are ready to convey such works in other oblasts and districts of Belarus, too. Moreover, methodological recommendations of taking part in such inventory will be developed,” – stated Eugeniy Lobanov, one of the organizers of the summer camp.
Senegal farmers call to British consumers: Help us beat pesticides
As the European market for organic foods continues to expand, a small group of farmers from Senegal whose fruit and vegetables are pesticide-free are visiting London and other European capitals to campaign for support from consumers. The farmers use integrated pest management strategies, rather than chemicals, to grow fruit and vegetables, and are worried that the power of the big supermarkets means they don’t get a fair deal for their crops which are in great demand in Europe.
The visit is scheduled in the framework of the “Food and Fairness” project, led by PAN UK and with PAN Africa, PAN Germany, Natuur en Milieu and PAN Europe as partners. They’ve come to London to press forward their campaign for a better deal. They say that to reduce poverty in Africa farmers need better prices for their food and reliable access to markets. No country has developed successfully, they say, without first consolidating its control over agriculture. Over 45 million Africans earn their livelihood from growing fresh fruit and vegetables for export to Europe. They include many small-scale poor farmers, many of them women. Farmers earn more by growing fruit and vegetables for export than the traditional commodity crops like tea and coffee.
Pesticides are a major concern in African countries, where small-scale farmers and agricultural workers have virtually no means of protecting themselves against the hazards. Horticultural crops are among the most dangerous in Africa. Instead of growing healthy crops, farmers have for years been encouraged by pesticide sellers to use their products – often pesticides that have been banned or restricted elsewhere. These farmers have shown that this kind of harmful pesticide use is unnecessary and wasteful.
But they are concerned that European standards for pesticide residues and ‘tracing’ food are being used to block imports rather than raise standards, even though residues are common in European-grown tomatoes. They believe that support from British consumers can help them in their bargaining with the supermarkets. This includes getting better prices and information that helps them meet quality standards.
In this way they say British consumers can help to strengthen African agriculture and produce better returns to African farmers.
This PAN Europe Newsletter was compiled by Sofia Parente
Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members, PURE supporters and individuals.