February - March 2007
1. PAN Europe activities
HEAL and PAN Europe Workshop "Pesticide use reduction for better health", European Parliament, 7 March 2007
As the European Parliament gears up for the upcoming first reading of the new EU legislation on pesticides, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN-E) have contributed to the debate by organising a workshop on the 7 of March to call for pesticide use reduction for better health, particularly of children and vulnerable groups.
The workshop was hosted by MEP Hiltrud Breyer, rapporteur for the Regulation on the placing of Plant Protection Products in the Market, and co-hosted by MEPs Erna Hennicot Schoepges, Dorette Corbey and Roberto Musacchio. Dr Roberto Bertollini, WHO Europe, Prof. Philippe Grandjean, Harvard University USA and University of Southern Denmark and other experts and stakeholders presented the latest scientific findings pointing to potential links between pesticide exposure and neurotoxicity to children’s developing brain as well as acute and chronic illnesses including allergies, asthma, several types of cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
The workshop had 60 participants including MEPs and assistants, representatives from the Permanent Representations of Member States in Brussels, European Commission officials and several NGO and industry stakeholders.
The programme, list of participants and presentations are available on the PAN-E website at: http://www.pan-europe.info/conferences/HEALPAN2007.htm
Briefing and poster “Cut back on pesticides for healthier lives”
The Health and Environment Alliance and (HEAL) and Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN-E) urge MEPs to “cut back on pesticides for healthier lives” in the context of the European Parliament discussion on pesticides and supported their demands with a briefing and a poster. The briefing highlights the new scientific understanding of health impacts of pesticides such as the “cocktail” toxicity of certain pesticides, the prevalence of chronic health effects connected to the exposure to low concentrations of pesticides and the special sensitivity of children. HEAL and PAN-E conclude the briefing with four recommendations for the effective application of the precautionary principle in pesticide policies to: reduce the overall use of pesticides; exclude unacceptable pesticides on the basis of their intrinsic hazards; substitute dangerous pesticides by less dangerous alternatives, including non-chemical methods; and provide better protection of children and against combination effects of pesticides.
The poster focuses on commonly used pesticides documented to be neurotoxic that need to be prioritized for testing and substitution. The main source of information is the article “Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals” published by Professors Grandjean and Landrigan in the medical publication The Lancet in the end of 2006. The authors published a list of known neurotoxic chemicals, including dozens of pesticides, associated with the present pandemic of developmental disability affecting the nervous system in children.
Hearings in the European Parliament
A number of public hearings have been organised in the European Parliament as different political groups engage in policy discussions and prepare their positions for the upcoming first reading of the new EU legislation on pesticides. Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN-E) has contributed to the debate by presenting our views on the different pieces of legislation in the Thematic Strategy (Framework Directive for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides, Regulation for placing pesticides in the market and Communication).
Grazia Cioci, Pesticide Use Reduction in Europe coordinator participated in the lunchtime seminar hosted by MEP Irena Belohorská on the Communication on the Thematic Strategy on the 6 of February and the public hearing hosted by EPP (Group of European People’s Party and European Democrats) MEPs Christa Klass and Hennicot-Schoepges on the 8 of February. Sofia Parente, PAN-E coordinator participated in the PES (Socialist Group in the European Parliament) hearing “Safe food and healthy environment - the future of plant protection in the EU” on the 5 of March and the lunchtime debate on Denmark’s Pesticide Use Reduction Programme organised by ALDE (Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) on the 21 of March.
2. Published news and information
Approval and ban of active ingredients in EU review
The EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH), in its meeting of 15-16 March 2007 has approved the insecticides pirimiphos-methyl (cholinesterase inhibitor), ethoprophos (cholinesterase inhibitor, acute toxic, carcinogen, potential groundwater contaminant) and fipronil (toxic to bees). These substances will be added to Annex I of the authorisation directive 91/414/EC.
In the same meeting of the Standing Committee, benfuracarb (cholinesterase inhibitor) and trifluralin were rejected and will be phased out in Europe. The proposal on methomyl (cholinesterase inhibitor, acute toxic, suspected endocrine disruptor, potential groundwater contaminant), did not get a qualified majority and the substance will be referred to the Council for a decision. Voting on 1, 3-dichloropropene (acute toxic, carcinogen, groundwater contaminant) was postponed.
New research shows effects in descendants of rats exposed to vinclozolin
Environmental contamination by endocrine-disrupting chemicals can promote disease across subsequent generations. In natural populations, both sexes may encounter affected as well as unaffected individuals during the breeding season, and any diminution in attractiveness could compromise reproductive success. This new research examines mate preference in male and female rats whose progenitors had been treated with the endocrine disruptor fungicide vinclozolin. This effect is sex-specific, and the team demonstrates that females three generations removed from the exposure discriminate and prefer males who do not have a history of exposure, whereas similarly imprinted males do not exhibit such a preference.
The observations suggest that the consequences of endocrine disruptors are not just transgenerational but can be "transpopulational", because in many mammalian species, males are the dispersing sex. The results indicate that transgenerational inheritance of the action of endocrine disruptors can be a significant force in sexual selection.
Potential risk to consumers’ health arising from proposed temporary MRLs
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued an opinion on the possible acute and chronic health risks from certain proposed residue levels of pesticides in food and feed. This is one of the first steps in the full EU harmonisation of national Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) for pesticides set in the Member States. MRLs that are considered safe for the population in one Member State may not necessarily be safe for the population in other countries due to different food consumption habits across Europe.
According to the risk assessment, 92 of the 236 active substances evaluated by EFSA were unlikely to present a risk to consumers. For the remaining 144 substances, the first screening could not exclude a potential consumer risk. More work will now be carried out on these substances by the Member States and the European Commission with a view to establishing temporary MRLs. EFSA is ready to provide further scientific advice to risk managers in the context of the harmonisation of temporary MRLs for pesticides.
EU wide Maximum Residue Levels are only set for about 250 active substances (ingredient compounds used in pesticides). For the remaining substances, the EFSA evaluation is now the first step in the full harmonization of the Maximum Residue Levels for pesticides which are presently subject to different national Maximum Residue Levels in the Member States.
EUREPGAP introduces changes in compliance criteria regarding pesticides
After much criticism about the lack of requirements for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in EUREPGAP produce, PAN-E took part in discussions with EUREPGAP in 2005 and 2006 over requirements for IPM or for the selection of less hazardous products in their standards. New proposals for Control Points & Compliance Criteria (CPCC) for this private crop assurance scheme required by many of Europe’s supermarkets have now been published. They will become obligatory in January 2008, and growers can be certified according to these new criteria from March 2007 onwards.
The main change related to pesticides is a new section on IPM which includes the FAO Code of Conduct definition of IPM (in line with the definition proposed by the Commission in the proposed Regulation for the placing of pesticides in the market). In order to be EUREPGAP certified, farmers must now show evidence of: implementing at least one activity in the Prevention category, Observation & Monitoring category and Intervention. Additionally, the use of methyl bromide is now prohibited for soil fumigation in the protocols for fruits and vegetables; flowers and ornamentals; green coffee; and tea.
Use of lawn and garden pesticides may increase risk of breast cancer
Researchers from New York and North Carolina recently conducted a study to evaluate the use of residential pesticides and a potential link to breast cancer. This study included 1,508 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer and 1,556 women without breast cancer. Study participants, who lived in Long Island, New York, were evaluated between 1996 and 1997. Residential pesticide use, as well as other risk factors, was assessed through in-person questionnaires administered by an interviewer.
The use of lawn and garden pesticides was associated with an approximate 40% increased risk in developing breast cancer. The study also concluded there was no apparent association between increased doses and increased risk of developing the disease. These results call for prevention and use of non-chemical alternatives for pest control in laws and gardens.
Towards a ban of pesticide use in lawns and golf courses in Canada
Across Canada, pesticide laws already protect 127 communities against pesticide use on lawns and in public areas. The Quebec government has banned all cosmetic use in the province, and Ontario might follow the example soon. In Ontario, nineteen communities representing over 4 million residents (36% of Ontario’s population) have already banned pesticide use in public areas and the Green Party of Ontario is calling on the provincial government to ban the use of pesticides in golf courses as well.
The problem with golf courses is the high use per hectare. On average, about 5kg of pesticides are applied per hectare to golf courses each year compared to 1.5kg per hectare on agricultural land. These pesticides include the herbicide 2,4-D, a possible carcinogen; the fungicide chlorothalonil, a probable human carcinogen; and the insecticide chlorpyrifos, one of the leading causes of acute insecticidal poisoning incidents in the U.S. according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A new study by the City of Ottawa reveals pesticides from residential lawns and golf courses have severely contaminated the Rideau River.
While public education campaigns can provide lawn and garden owners with valuable information on alternatives to using pesticides, recent studies suggest that education alone does not result in reduced pesticide use.
Strychnine banned for mole control in the UK and the European Union
Safer and more humane methods of controlling moles must now be introduced after the UK government's failure to reverse an EU ban on the use of strychnine. From September 2006, a number of biocides have been banned in the EU in the framework of the implementation of the Biocides Directive.
After manufacturers failed to provide scientific evidence proving strychnine is safe, the UK Government appealed to continue using strychnine for mole control as a last resort to prevent a ban. But all EU countries have joined the European Commission in unanimously rejecting the UK's appeal.
The changes mean that around 3,000 users, who have been granted Government licenses to use strychnine to kill moles on agricultural or other extensive grassland such as golf courses, now have to use other methods. The main alternatives to poisoning are 'kill traps'. If used correctly, these kill individual moles compared with indiscriminate eradication with strychnine.
Moles can actually be gardeners’ friends as they eat slugs and many harmful insect larvae such as cockchafers and carrotfly. Their tunnels also help to drain and aerate heavy soils and the fine soil of molehills was traditionally used to make potting compost.
Foetal exposure to common chemicals can activate obesity
Exposure to environmental chemicals found in everyday plastics and pesticides while in the womb may make a person more prone to obesity later in life, new research indicates. Obesity is generally discussed in terms of calorie intake but new research has found that when foetuses are exposed to these chemicals, the way their genes function may be altered to make them more prone to obesity and disease.
Using laboratory mice, Prof. vom Saal from the University of Missouri Columbia has studied the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals and found that they cause mice to be born at very low birth weights and then gain abnormally large amounts of weight in a short period of time, more than doubling their body weight in just seven days. Vom Saal followed the mice as they got older and found that these mice were obese throughout their lives. He said studies of low-birth-weight children have shown a similar overcompensation after birth, resulting in lifelong obesity.
Endosulfan recommended to be added to toxic trade blacklist
The third meeting of the Chemical Review Committee of the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent PIC (20-23 March, Rome) agreed to forward to the Conference of the Parties the recommendation for inclusion of endosulfan in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. This will mean that endosulfan could be added to a list of other chemicals considered so harmful they can only be traded in special circumstances. Endosulfan would only be allowed to be exported to countries which have explicitly chosen to permit it, a measure aimed at protecting human health and the environment in developing countries. PIC signatory governments have to approve the decision before it can come into force, something they are expected to do at a meeting of the Rotterdam Convention in 2008.
Despite being banned or restricted in the EU and a number of other countries, endosulfan is widely sprayed on food crops and cotton around the globe, especially in developing countries. It is acutely toxic, carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting and is responsible for the poisoning of hundreds of farmers, livestock and wildlife world wide. Tributyltin (TBT), an endocrine disruptor that can devastate marine life in harbours and used in "antifouling paint" for ships' hulls, was also recommended for inclusion under PIC.
PAN was represented at the meeting by Davo Simplice Vodouhê from the Benin organisation producing and promoting organic cotton OBEPAB and Carina Weber from PAN Germany.
3. News from PAN Europe partners
Field Guide to Non-chemical Pest Management in Tomato Production
PAN Germany has published the fifth 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.
The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton
This new report by the Environmental Justice Foundation in collaboration with the Pesticide Action Network UK, reveals the routine use of harmful chemicals, including nerve agents and neurotoxins, on cotton crops. Vomiting, paralysis, incontinence, coma, seizures and death are some of the many side effects suffered by farmers and children in the developing world who are routinely exposed to pesticides, many of which are banned or restricted in use in the West.
Cotton is the most valuable non-food agricultural product and is labelled as the world's “dirtiest” crop. US$2 billion’s worth of chemicals are sprayed on the world’s cotton crop every year, almost half of which is considered toxic enough to be classified as hazardous by the World Health Organisation. Cotton is responsible for the release of 16% of global insecticides – more than any other single crop and in total, almost 1kg of hazardous pesticides is applied for every hectare of global cropland under cotton. Aldicarb, a powerful nerve agent, is one of the most toxic pesticides applied to cotton worldwide. Despite its World Health Organisation classification, “extremely hazardous”, US$112 million’s worth is applied to cotton crops each year. Endosulfan - attributed to serious health problems, including coma, seizures, convulsions and death – remains as one of the most widely used pesticides in the world: in India, over 3,000 tonnes is applied to cotton crops annually. Endosulfan is thought to be the most important source of fatal poisoning among cotton farmers in West Africa. Children are inherently more vulnerable to the negative impacts of exposure to pesticides. In countries such as Uzbekistan and India, children work in the cotton industry, live near cotton fields or are at high danger of pesticide exposure from reused pesticide containers and food.
Week without Pesticides in France
After the success of the first celebration of the Week without Pesticides in 2006, the 2007 week witnessed even more events and organisations joining in France, as well as events in Italy and the Netherlands. The Week without Pesticides was organised by ACAP, a coalition of over 100 French organisations started by MDRGF in 2004 and comprehended a series of events during ten days (20-31 March) aimed at promoting alternatives to pesticides in agriculture and amenity use.
With 80,000 tonnes of active substances used annually, France is the largest user of pesticides in Europe. Although alternatives exist and are successfully being implemented by farmers and amateur users, they are not sufficiently promoted to become mainstream. The French public is worried about pesticides residues in food but the knowledge of alternatives to pesticides is currently limited. This series of conferences, visits to farms, gardens and orchards, film projections and debates is hopefully bringing the issue closer to the public opinion.
Why Risk Assessment is Necessary for Substance Mixtures
The new PAN Germany paper summarises the current knowledge on combination effects of pesticides and demands public authorities responsible for pesticide regulation to consider combination effects regularly and in a methodically well-grounded manner in the risk assessment of pesticides.
Pesticides: revelations of a French scandal
This new book by Fabrice Nicolino and François Veillerette is causing extremes of protest and support in France. It shows how the agrochemical lobby in France has succeeded in influencing all the major decision centres and determining key policies in the last decades. Fabrice Nicolino is a journaliste and author of the book “Le tour de France d’un écologiste“. François Veillerette is president of MDRGF, Board member of PAN Europe and author of the book “Pesticides, le piège se referme”.
This PAN Europe Newsletter was compiled by Sofia Parente
Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members, PURE supporters and individuals.