Two very toxic pesticides could and should be banned in Europe. They are both highly toxic to humans and environment, listed among the most dangerous pesticides that should be substituted in the EU. Even worse, one of them is a ‘Toxic12’ and the other a PFAS, a very persistent ‘forever chemical’. They are deliberately sprayed on fields contaminating our food, soil and water. Instead of a ban, the EU Commission intends to prolong their authorisation for another year.
EU Member States are discussing a proposal to prolong the use of Toxic 12 member Chlorotoluron and PFAS Flufenacet for another year in their meeting on July 11 and 12. We consider this proposed prolongation a scandal and not in line with EU law.
Chlorotoluron – Toxic 12
The herbicide Chlortoluron - part of our Toxic 12 list - is classified as suspected of damaging the development of unborn children (toxic for reproduction category 2) and as suspected to be carcinogenic (carcinogenic category 2). It is mainly used on cereal crops like wheat and barley. It is used to control early broad-leaved weeds and grasses, as a foliar spray or applied to the soil prior to planting. When its initial approval expired in 2016, the substance met the criteria for endocrine disruption laid down in the Pesticide Regulation. It should therefore have been banned right then, without further reassessment.
Flufenacet – PFAS
This herbicide is a PFAS, a ‘forever chemical’. It is very toxic to aquatic life and very persistent in soil and water. Its breakdown product Trifluoroacetic Acid (TFA) can contaminate groundwater. It is often used together with two other very toxic substances pendimethalin and/or diflufenican (also candidates for substitution and very hazardous for the environment). In 2020, the EU committed to phase out PFAS in Europe in the context of its EU Chemical Strategy for Sustainability.
These pesticides should be banned now
This practice of repeatedly prolonging the use of hazardous substances must stop and an immediate ban on these both pesticides is urgent. The exposure of people and the environment to these toxic substances should have been avoided for years already according to EU law. Evidence of harm is overwhelming and even in case of doubts applying the mandatory precautionary principle would lead to a ban. This is not only a legal obligation but a landmark towards a total phase-out of the most hazardous pesticides in the EU by 2030. This is foreseen by the EU Green Deal and by more than 1.1 million European citizens in the ECI Save Bees and Farmers.
Prolonged for the 8th time?
Even though the damage to health and environment has been proven by regulatory studies and scientific literature for years, the EU institutions are still waiting for the final conclusions. In the meantime, they just continue lengthening their approval period year after year. For Flufenacetit would be the 8th (!) prolongation, for Chlorotoluron the 7th. In accordance with the EU Pesticide Regulation, they should have been banned respectively in 2013 and in 2016.
The extension of their approval period has taken place, without any update of their scientific assessment, since 2006 for Chlorotoluron, and since 2003 for Flufenacet. Initially, the approvals were due to expire after a 10-year period. Before the authorisation expires a new assessment should take place, based on recent scientific knowledge.
This still hasn’t happened. Both pesticides are allowed on the fields for 17 and 20 years, without the required reassessment. Why? The Member State(s) in charge of reassessing the substances did not deliver their conclusions to the European Food Security Agency (EFSA) on time. The European Commission keeps turning a blind eye by proposing to prolong the approval. This remains a very unhealthy and unlawful pattern: almost all pesticides identified as “candidates for substitution” the prolongations of their approval period, as a result of delays in their reassessments, has become a standard practice. (Have a look at our factsheet below).
Legal case against prolongations
PAN Europe has lodged a complaint to the EU Court of Justice to stop these practices. They compromise the protection of human health, animal health and the environment. Prolongations without proper, updated assessment should not be allowed and delays should be avoided. The EU law requires a much stricter approach. A recent judgement of the European Court of Justice in January 2023 made this very clear:
“In that regard, it should be borne in mind that those provisions are based on the precautionary principle, which is one of the bases of the policy of a high level of protection pursued by the European Union in the field of the environment, (…), in order to prevent active substances or products placed on the market from harming human or animal health or the environment.”
Followed by: “Furthermore, it is clear, as stated in recital 24 of Regulation No 1107/2009, that the provisions governing authorisations must ensure a high standard of protection and that, in particular, when granting authorisations of plant protection products, the objective of protecting human and animal health and the environment should ‘take priority’ over the objective of improving plant production.” (recitals 47 and 48).
Stop the renewal of the authorisation for dangerous pesticides
Pesticide authorisations should not be extended if there is no updated assessment. If there is any proof or doubt that a substance could not comply with the requirements for health and environmental safety, the Commission should propose a ban.
We call on the EU Member states to ban Chlorotoluron and Flufenacet now.
- Factsheet on Chlortoluron (Toxic 12)
- Factsheet on Flufenacet (Candidate for Substitution, PFAS)
- Factsheet on Pendimethalin (Toxic 12, used together with Flufenacet)
- Factsheet: Patterns of systematic and unlawful prolongation of toxic pesticide approvals by the European Commission
- Press release: PAN Europe takes legal action against systematic prolongation of permits for toxic pesticides' by the European Commission
- The Toxic 12 Campaign