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PAN Europe Objectives
welcome > Objectives

Why are we concerned about pesticides?

There is increasing evidence indicating the harmful impacts on human health from combined exposure to different chemicals - particularly to the health of children and other vulnerable groups. There is similar evidence of the negative impacts from combined exposure on the biodiversity of European ecosystems. The widespread release of chemical pesticides certainly contributes to the chemical load in human bodies and other living organisms in our ecosystems. We therefore need to consider why dependency on pesticides should be reduced, as well as how to go about achieving this reduction.

In Europe, many farmers regularly use more pesticides than are needed, incurring extra costs to their farming enterprises, as well as the external costs to health and environment borne by society as a whole. There are many practical ways to reduce dependency on pesticides and use alternative methods for safer and more sustainable agriculture and other sectors where pesticides are used (homes and gardens, public building and amenities, railways and roadsides, etc). However, there are also regulatory and market obstacles to changing pesticide practice. We need to address these issues with coherent policy on food and farming, human and environmental health, with more research, training, advice and incentives to reduce pesticide use and its negative impacts.

The Explanatory Memorandum to our suggested PURE Directive includes a detailed overview of these issues, with references to key documents and reports.

What is PAN Europe doing to solve these problems?

PAN Europe’s work aims to achieve policy change at European Union level for:

  • more effective controls on pesticides to better protect human health and the environment
  • concrete targets and timetables for pesticide use reduction
  • promotion of safer and more sustainable management of pests, diseases and weeds
  • more transparency and public participation in pesticide policy and decision-making

We work with network partners to influence the political agenda at national level and to raise awareness of pesticide problems and solutions across Europe, including those countries that are not members of the EU.

The PAN Europe Partners’ Platform was agreed at our 2000 conference, adopted by over 50 NGO participants as a compilation of our demands for a progressive European pesticides policy and as a framework for PAN Europe’s work. It describes our broad objectives and also addresses the EU’s global responsibility in terms of pesticide exports, information and aid to developing countries and those in transition. From 2001onwards, we worked to refine many of the Platform demands into a suggested Directive for pesticide use reduction, the basis of our PURE Campaign.

Evaluation and authorisation of pesticides at EU level

We are also involved in the discussion of the future EU pesticide registration system under the revision of the authorisation Directive 91/414. We produced a Position Paper on EU Pesticides Authorisation in 2001, in which we argue for stricter, hazard-based criteria for deciding which pesticides should not be given approval at EU level. We are urging for comparative assessment of individual pesticides and non-chemical alternatives, so that safer methods and products can be substituted. Our 2003 report on How to organise public participation in the pesticides evaluation process? gives a useful overview of how the pesticide approval process works in the EU and our concerns, as well as our recommendations on how to make the process more transparent.

PAN Europe partners work on specific active ingredients of concern, e.g. joint lobbying with other NGOs and trade unions in 2003 against EU-wide approval of the toxic herbicide paraquat. Our Position Paper on pesticides with endocrine-disrupting effects looks at those with chronic effects on hormonal activity and reproduction. We also follow the issue of pesticides approved for minor use crops and those compounds withdrawn at EU level but which have been granted a derogation for continued “essential uses” in certain crops and countries.

Health and environmental impacts

PAN Europe is concerned about the presence of pesticide residues in food and produced a general Position Paper on good residue legislation in 2001. In 2004, we produced a further Position Paper on our demands in relation to the current Commission proposals for harmonising Maximum Residue Levels across the EU.

While many of the more acutely toxic pesticides are being phased out in the EU, science doesn’t have a good understanding of the long-term effects of low level and multiple exposure to current compounds or on the harm this does to humans or other organisms. PAN Europe has participated in the Commission’s Environment and Health Strategy, urging for pesticide-related cancer, endocrine disruption and hazards for children’s health to be addressed and stressed that enough evidence of harmful effects now exists to take action under the precautionary principle, rather than waiting for more research. We liaise with toxicology experts and medical physicians working on pesticide exposure and with NGOs in public health policy to broaden awareness of the issues and latest research findings.

In terms of biodiversity conservation, we call for pesticide application frequency to be used as one of the key indicators for sustainable agriculture, since reduction in pesticide intensity is linked to increased biodiversity. We liaise with other NGOs working to protect European surface and groundwater from pollutants including pesticides and those campaigning for disposal of obsolete pesticide stockpiles.

Agriculture policy and alternatives in farming

Our Position Paper on Good Agricultural Practice looks at different concepts of Integrated Pest Management and Integrated Crop Management and critiques how these systems are currently used in Europe and their effectiveness in reducing pesticide negative impacts. We contribute to dialogue and experience-sharing on alternative systems of pest management and crop-specific examples of pesticide reduction.

With our growing number of members in Central and Eastern Europe, we also seek to contribute to civil society participation in the debates over agricultural policy and the CAP reform, and environmental, agricultural and public health aspects of EU enlargement and the Community’s external relations.

> Partners’ Platform