October - November 2006
1. PAN Europe activities
Open letter to Commissioner Kyprianou calls for the protection of bees against toxic pesticides
Farmer and beekeeper associations, joined by consumers and environmental organisations asked for the ban of several substances highly toxic for bees in an attempt to improve the current situation of beekeeping in Europe. The four substances (clothianidin, thiamethoxam, imidacloprid, fipronil) have been associated with the decline in bee colonies throughout Europe and are being revised under Directive 91/414/EEC for the placing of pesticides in the EU market. Clothianidin and thiamethoxam have recently been re-approved for use in the European market, while imidacloprid and fipronil are being discussed at the regulatory committee level.
The substances are systemic, neurotoxic and persistent in the environment and carry acute toxicity to bees. The current Directive for placing pesticides in the market requires that the dossier for substances with a hazard quotient (HQ) higher than 50 must be complemented with additional tests in order to fully “appreciate the effects (of the product) on honeybee larvae, on honeybee behaviour, colony survival and development after use of the plant protection product according to the proposed conditions of use”. The toxicity of these substances for bees is significant; with HQ reaching surprising figures. For example, for imidacloprid, HQ reaches 40,540 for the oral exposure route and 1,852 by contact. For clothianidin, HQ scores more than 10,000 for the oral exposure route. But while the required additional tests on the colony are insufficient, tests on bee brood have simply not been carried out in the impact assessment.
For these reasons the organisations demanded that no substance showing high toxicity (HQ>50) towards bees, and in particular, fipronil and imidacloprid, are registered for use in Europe unless independent and validated tests show their innocuousness for bees, their brood, and the functioning of the colony considered as a system. The clothianidin and thiamethoxam cases must be reassessed on this basis.
Farmers and environmental organisations call for a ban of glufosinate ammonium in the European Union
Farmers and environmental organisations, including PAN Europe, recently joined forces to campaign for a ban of this extremely hazardous substance. The organisations addressed the Ministers and representatives in the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health and the European Commission asking them not to miss the opportunity to ban glufosinate ammonium ahead of the meeting of the regulatory committee of 23rd and 24th November.
The results of the risk assessment for glufosinate amonium, conducted by the rapporteur Member State Sweden, and peer reviewed by EFSA- European Food Safety Authority showed serious concerns about the risks for consumers, operators and the environment. The substance is proposed to be classified as reprotoxic category 2, with laboratory experiments causing premature birth, intra-uterine death and abortions in rats. According to the risk assessment conclusions, under the proposed uses in orchards, in genetically modified crops (maize, rape-seed and sugar beet) and in potatoes, glufosinate-amonium:
- poses grave dangers to consumers, in particular children as it exceeds the ARfD- Acute Reference Dose for toddlers in potatoes (0.045mg/kg of body weight). Only slightly higher levels of residues than the recommended for toddlers (8.5 mg/kg of body weight, less than a 200 higher level) caused the death of dogs in laboratory experiments due to myocardial necrosis;
- exceeds the AOEL-Acute Operator Exposure Level, even if gloves and overalls are worn (which rarely happens in the real world conditions of use and which public authorities have no way of monitoring or enforcing in the field);
- poses high risk to mammals, non-target arthropods and non-target plants.
Call for pesticides residues-free food at a time of mounting contamination
The European Commission released in October the latest EU monitoring results of pesticides residues in food showing alarming levels of contamination. At the same week, 18 environmental, health and consumer organisations from 14 different countries including PAN Europe called upon the discount supermarket chain Lidl to substantially reduce the pesticide contamination in fruit and vegetables sold by the corporation in all its European branches, and to sell organic and Fair Trade products.
The latest results of the coordinated EU monitoring of pesticides residues in products of plant origin shows violations of legal pesticides limits and a growing trend in contamination with multiple residues. Even baby food does not escape this trend. While baby food should be residues free, the latest monitoring results show that 2.7% of all samples are contaminated with residues above the legal limit. The results also show that levels of acute risk to children are often exceeded. This means that children might be ingesting more than the tolerated dose of a given pesticide over a period of time, for example more than eight-fold the tolerated dose of methamidophos in lettuce, an organophosphorus insecticide that attacks the nervous system. They might also be ingesting more than eleven-fold and four-fold the tolerated dose of oxydemeton-methyl in lettuce and apples respectively. The latest substance, besides attacking the nervous system, is also toxic to reproduction.
Lidl came off the worst among leading supermarket chains in a survey of pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables carried out by Greenpeace in Germany at the end of 2005. Early this year Lidl introduced measures to reduce pesticide residues in fresh food sold in Germany, limiting them in fresh produce to one-third of the current maximum limits in Germany. In response to growing consumer concerns about pesticides residues in food and the hazards posed by pesticides to consumers, farmers and the environment, several supermarket chains all over Europe are already implementing policies to reduce residues and increase the range of organic and Fair Trade products on their shelves. Discount supermarket chains, such as Lidl, should not miss this opportunity to promote pesticide use reduction in the European countries where they operate.
2. Published news and information
Approval of active ingredients in EU review
The EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH), in its meeting of 23-24 November has approved the inclusion of six existing active ingredients to Annex I: the organophosphate insecticides phosmet (cholinesterase inhibitor, possible carcinogen, potential groundwater contaminant) and dimethoate (acute toxic, cholinesterase inhibitor, reproductive toxin, possible carcinogen, potential groundwater contaminant), the herbicides glufosinate ammonium (reprotoxic) and metribuzin (reprotoxic, potential groundwater contaminant, suspected endocrine disruptor) and the fungicides propamocarb and dimethomorph.
Ban of active ingredients in EU review
In the same meeting, the SCFCAH excluded five substances from Annex I: the herbicides diuron (carcinogen, groundwater contaminant, reproductive toxin) and haloxyfop-R, the organophosphate insecticide cadusafos (cholinesterase inhibitor, acute toxic) and the insecticides carbofuran (cholinesterase inhibitor, acute toxic, potential groundwater contaminant) and carbosulfan (cholinesterase inhibitor).
Integrated production of wheat more profitable than conventional production
Experiments conducted for over four years by INRA, the French National Institute for Agronomic Research, concluded that using adequate varieties of wheat combined with rotations and sensible use of pesticides and fertilisers results in better economic results for farmers compared with conventional methods of wheat production. The 26 experiments conducted in 2006 resulted in a higher average gross profit margin of 56€ per hectare compared with conventional wheat production. In one case, the margin could be as higher as 160€ per hectare. In total, integrated wheat production was more profitable than conventional in 92% of the cases.
The integrated production systems utilised 40% less seeds, no growth regulators (against one growth regulator in the conventional production) and one fungicide (against two fungicides in the conventional production). The integrated systems also used less than 30 units of nitrogen compared to the conventional. These results support the previous INRA recommendation of moving towards integrated and organic production systems following the experts report about pesticides and agriculture released earlier this year.
Bayer sued over genetically modified rice
US rice farmers have filled a lawsuit against Bayer CropScience over the release of an unauthorised strain of genetically modified glufosinate-tolerant rice. Around 300 farmers from Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississipi, Missouri and Texas are seeking an injunction against Bayer to require the company to clean up the contamination. The plaintiffs are also seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the company. Since the rice strain contaminated the food chain, the EU and Japan placed strict limits on US rice imports and prices for US rice have dropped dramatically.
Denying any culpability, the Bayer response variously blames the escape of its gene-altered variety of long-grain race, on "unavoidable circumstances which could not have been prevented by anyone"; "an act of God"; and farmers' "own negligence, carelessness, and/or comparative fault." In the mean while, the lawyer who has filed five class-action suits for rice farmers claims how "unfortunate that Bayer, rather than accept responsibility for its actions, is instead trying to pin the blame on the American rice farmers, the very people most detrimentally affected by Bayer's conduct here".
Positive correlation found between pesticide poisonings and depression
A new case-control study evaluated the association between depression and pesticide exposure among women. The study population included 29,074 female spouses of private pesticide applicators enrolled in the US Agricultural Health Study between 1993 and 1997 carried out in two US states and cases were women who had physician-diagnosed depression requiring medication. Lifetime pesticide use was categorized as never mixed/applied pesticides, low exposure, high exposure, and a history of diagnosed pesticide poisoning. The conclusion indicates that depression was significantly associated with a history of pesticide poisoning.
Exposure to certain pesticides associated with increase risk of Parkinson disease
Previous studies based on limited exposure assessment have suggested that Parkinson's disease is associated with pesticide exposure. The authors used data obtained from licensed private pesticide applicators and spouses participating in the Agricultural Health Study to evaluate the relation of self-reported Parkinson’s disease to pesticide exposure. Cohort members, who were enrolled in 1993-1997, provided detailed information on lifetime pesticide use. Cases were defined as participants who reported physician-diagnosed Parkinson’s at enrolment or follow-up and were compared with cohort members who did not report. Incident Parkinson disease was associated with cumulative days of pesticide use at enrolment, with personally applying pesticides more than half the time, and with some specific pesticides. This study suggests that exposure to certain pesticides may increase Parkinson disease risk. Findings for specific chemicals may provide fruitful leads for further investigation.
Prevalence of neuropsychiatric symptoms in past users of sheep dip and other pesticides
From a postal survey of men born between 1933 and 1977 and resident in three rural areas of England and Wales, the authors of the study obtained data on lifetime history of work with pesticides; neurological symptoms in the past month; current mental health; and tendency to be troubled by non-neurological somatic symptoms (summarised as a somatising tendency score). Data were available for 9,844 men, including 1,913 who had worked with sheep dip, 832 with other insecticides but not sheep dip, and 990 with other pesticides but never with sheep dip or insecticides. Neurological symptoms were consistently more common in past users of sheep dip than in men who had never worked with pesticides, but their prevalence was also elevated in men who had worked only with pesticides other than sheep dip or insecticides. Among users of sheep dip, prevalence was higher in men who had dipped most often, but not in those who had worked with concentrate. The study concludes that neurological symptoms are more common in men who have worked with sheep dip.
Further cuts in methyl bromide in Europe, while the US maintains use exemptions
In the eighteenth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MOP-18), New Delhi, 30 October - 3 November 2006, the EU has agreed to cut its consumption of the ozone-depleting pesticide methyl bromide to a maximum 690 tonnes in 2007. The EU has reduced its consumption cap from 2,777 tonnes in 2005. Seven EU countries can continue to use methyl bromide in 2007, those with the highest caps being Spain (318 tonnes), Italy (252 tonnes) and France (77 tonnes).
Methyl bromide use in developed countries has been banned since 2005, but with exemptions for approved "critical uses". Parties to the protocol regularly review the exemptions with a view to phasing them out. World-wide, industrialised countries will be able to use up to about 9,000 tonnes of methyl bromide in 2007. The single largest user by far is the USA, whose 2007 consumption cap was agreed last year at
Several parties criticised US reluctance to cut consumption - or production - more rapidly. In New Delhi America's 2008 cap on methyl bromide use was set at 5,355 tonnes. Much lower caps were also agreed for Australia, Japan and Canada.
ENDS Europe DAILY 2198, 06/11/06
Plant protection market growing in Eastern Europe
Over the past five years the crop protection market in Europe has experienced the greatest growth of any region in the world, at 6.4% a year and is now the largest regional market and accounts for over 29% of global crop protection sales, compared with just under 25% for both North America and the Asia/Pacific region. But these statistics don’t tell the full story because almost all of this growth has been generated by the former communist satellite states of eastern Europe. While in the ten countries that joined the EU in May 2004 the crop protection market grew by 36%, in the 15 existing west European members it fell by 12%.
With these growth rates and a Common Agriculture Policy that gives incentives to farmers to increase their consumption of external inputs we may well be saying goodbye to a low input agriculture in eastern Europe. With prospects of continuous growth, many crop protection companies are enhancing their presence in these markets by aggressive marketing campaigns and or by acquiring eastern European companies.
3. News from PAN Europe partners
Rachel Carson Memorial Lecture 2006: Farmers and Fashion
PAN UK ‘s annual Rachel Carson Memorial Lecture is an opportunity to celebrate her work and mark the annual Day of No Pesticide Use. On the Day of No Pesticide Use, many civil society organisations in the world address the problems of the misuse of pesticides and call for sustainable alternatives. The remind us of the Bhophal Disaster caused by the accidental release of 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate from a Union Carbide India pesticide plant located in the heart of the Indian city of Bhopal on 3 December 1984. Thousands of people died then and far more from related illnesses since. This day is held in memory of victims of Bhopal and other sufferers from pesticide exposure.
In this years’ lecture Dr. Camilla Toulmin talk “How British consumers can support African cotton farmers” will reveal the stark reality of life for men and women cotton farmers in semi-arid West Africa. PAN UK’s Organic Cotton Project works with farmers, designers, suppliers and retailers ranging from well known High Street names to small cutting edge designers. More than 10 million West Africans depend on cotton. How can we make a difference?
West African cotton stands as an icon for much that is wrong with our world. Hard-working farmers supply us with fibre at bargain basement prices. Agricultural subsidies paid out to cotton farmers in the US and Europe have brought falling margins and incomes, despite their industry and competitive edge. More than 10 million West Africans depend on the fine cotton that farmers coax from these semi-arid lands, without irrigation and making best use of what little rain falls. High levels of pesticide use sacrifice health and endanger the fragile environment. But better and more sustainable alternatives are available.
The memorial lecture will be held on the evening of 5 December 2006 at the Royal Society for the Arts, London.
New PAN Germany website to support the implementation of the International Code of Conduct for the Distribution and Use of Pesticides
Also on 3rd December 2006, the Day of No Pesticide Use, PAN Germany launches a new website to promote the implementation of the International Code of Conduct for the Distribution and Use of Pesticides.
Carina Weber, PAN Germany Program Director: "Pesticides harm people and the environment and can have high economic costs. If everyone would keep to the Code of Conduct, pesticides would cause far less damage, especially in developing countries. Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Germany, in cooperation with all PAN Regional Centres, has developed a new website to support civil society organisations and others in becoming active in the implementation of the Code."
The website is a one-stop location for getting to know what the Code says about the responsibilities of governments, the pesticide industry, the food industry, farmers and public interest groups to prevent harm caused by pesticides. In addition you can easily identify what the Code says about important pesticide-related issues including pesticide use, pesticide advertising, pesticide labelling and distribution and also about alternatives to toxic pesticides. Support pages provide information on useful resources and suggestions for action.
The Code of Conduct is a worldwide guidance document on pesticide management for all public and private entities engaged in, or associated with, the distribution and use of pesticides. It was adopted in 1985 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. In 2002 the FAO Council approved a revised and improved version but so far the Code is still a paper tiger.
Second International Congress of the Paris Appeal
More than 500 scientists, doctors and representatives of health and environment groups meeting at UNESCO, Paris called for strong measures to control chemicals to help prevent cancers and other chronic illnesses. Recent evidence that extremely low levels of exposure to some chemical contaminants can cause disease by interfering with the activity of genes were presented at the “Environment and Sustainable Health: An International Assessment” conference. The “Paris Appeal Memorandum” made unified scientific recommendations for the prevention of cancers, birth defects, brain development disorders and infertility.
The most urgent recommendations focused on the importance of strengthening health protection via the European Union’s chemicals policy reform, also known as REACH, but also other policies in particular pesticides. François Veillerette, from the French advocacy group Mouvement pour le Droit et le Respect des Générations Futures (MDRGF), a member of PAN-Europe, would like to see this approach governing the use of pesticides. In France, nearly 50% of the vegetables produced in intensive farming contain pesticides.
In addition to a call for a strong substitution policy in REACH, the Paris Appeal Memorandum is likely to seek an authorisation process for pesticides, food additives and cosmetics similar to that used for medicines, new education programmes and research priorities, measures in waste management, and incentives to reduce pesticide use via the Common Agriculture Policy.
Stop Paraquat: Citizens around the World condemn Syngenta
The campaign to stop the Syngenta pesticide paraquat is gathering support around the world. The International Union of Agricultural Workers' Associations (IUF), the 2005 Alternative Nobel Prize Laureate Irene Fernandez of Malaysia, and a representative of the Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate said at a press conference in Switzerland that paraquat no longer has a place in agriculture because the highly toxic product of the Swiss agrochemical corporation had claimed too many victims already. Seeking to increase the pressure on Syngenta the Berne Declaration (BD) has called a “public proceeding”.
In German-speaking countries the public proceeding in the paraquat case started in early October. So far, some 16,000 people have condemned Syngenta’s paraquat policies.”By marketing paraquat primarily to countries where it is not used according to instructions, Syngenta is acting with gross negligence and is complicit in ten thousands of poisonings every year“ says Berne Declaration expert François Meienberg.
Sue Longley, coordinator of the International Union of Agricultural Workers' Associations (IUF) representing over 2.5 million people in 125 countries, explains why her members overwhelmingly oppose paraquat: “On banana plantations in Central America, palm oil plantations in South East Asia, and in many African countries workers suffer from the effects of paraquat on their health. The product must be banned worldwide.”
Irene Fernandez, Right Livelihood Award Winner and Chairperson of the Pesticide Action Network Asia & the Pacific, has been fighting the use of paraquat in her home country for many years. A ban proclaimed by the Malaysian government in 2002 was never implemented – for various reasons, including an intervention by Syngenta. „Syngenta must be held accountable, at last, for the health damage caused by paraquat”, Fernandez insists.
Sweden outlawed paraquat back in 1983 and in 2004 filed an appeal to the European Court against a decision of the European Commission to re-approve paraquat for Europe. „Sweden has the opinion that we have a global responsibility to send clear signals that paraquat is not safe to use - neither in Europe nor in developing countries“, said Kirsti Siirala, a representative of the Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate, at the press conference.
For more information contact François Meienberg, Campaign Director, Berne Declaration, Tel. +41 44 277 70 04
Field Guide to Non-chemical Pest Management on Corn Production
PAN Germany has published the fourth field guide in a series on non-chemical pest management in the tropics. These field guides focus on just one crop and deal with all relevant information on how to manage agricultural pests (e.g. insects, mites,
diseases) without using chemical pesticides. The basis for these easy-to-read booklets is OISAT, the PAN Germany online information service for non-chemical pest management in the tropics.
Criminal trader network selling illegal pesticides in Germany
Six months of investigations by Greenpeace show that traders including Germany's biggest agricultural traders, Raiffeisen, are selling toxic and strictly prohibited pesticides, among them E605 (parathion), in south Germany and Alsace. Eleven traders sold Greenpeace's investigators a total of approximately 100 kilogrammes of illegal pesticides such as bifenthrin, malathion and diethion, which have either never been authorised in Germany or been banned for years. Four of the eleven belong to the Raiffeisen group. A branch of Raiffeisen holdings in Karlsruhe in fact sold ten litres of the highly hazardous toxin E605 in Salmbach in the French part of Alsace
- for cash and without a receipt. Residues of such chemicals have been detected time and again by Greenpeace and authorities monitoring food of German origin.
The traders on this side of and beyond the German-French border have German-speaking sales staff on hand and pitch their sales particularly at German farmers willing to take up their offer. On request the goods are delivered in Germany. Greenpeace presented extensive film footage, sales receipts and some 100 kilogrammes of illegal pesticides at a press conference in Berlin. The 38 packages of pesticide impounded by Greenpeace contained eleven chemicals banned in Germany and three banned throughout the EU. The environmental organisation is reporting the matter to the authorities as a violation of the law on pesticides with suspicion of tax evasion.
Greenpeace is calling for effective controls across borders. Traders and farmers who sell or use illegal pesticide must be severely punished. Their licences to trade or produce must be revoked and agricultural subsidies cancelled. Greenpeace is also calling for more support to alternatives to hazardous pesticides and for an agriculture free of pesticides and GMOs.
This PAN Europe Newsletter was compiled by Sofia Parente
Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members, PURE supporters and individuals.