Break the link between productivity and pesticides

Today the Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) hold an international conference in Copenhagen on 'Reducing pesticide dependency in Europe to protect health, environment and biodiversity'. 'Existing EU procedures are inefficient and too slow to deal with the worst pesticides, which persist in the environment, pollute our drinking water resources and food, and disrupt our hormones,' said Stefan Scheuer, EEB. 'Europe now has the chance to implement clear-cut criteria for banning these dangerous chemicals, and to show the direction of future innovation, which will substitute hazardous pesticides with safer alternatives. But banning the worst offenders is not enough. All Europeans need a mandatory EU target to reduce overall pesticides use by 50% in 10 years to break the link between productivity and pesticides.' Most old and new Member States will send representatives from their Environment, Agriculture and Health ministries to the conference to debate with representatives of water service providers, manufacturers of pesticides and alternative products, food retailers, farmers, consumers, public health, and environmental organisations, trade unions, medical, environmental and agronomic research institutes, from all over Europe. The aim of the conference is to raise awareness about the problems caused by increasing and continuing pesticides use and to consider the case for reducing pesticide dependency within a EU legal framework. 'We need to consider new scientific findings about effects at the lowest level of exposure for an increasing number of pesticides, their combined effects, the particular vulnerability of foetuses and children and the impact of pesticides on biodiversity. At the same time, we lack data on our exposure to multiple chemicals and we do not have enough information on the harm this is doing ourselves and the environment,' said Catherine Wattiez, PAN Europe. 'Consequently , the precautionary principle has to be applied and pesticide dependency must be reduced.' "Setting targets and timetables for organic farming and integrated crop management (ICM) development is one important way to start reducing pesticide dependency. An increasing number of studies shows that ICM is beneficial to the environment as well as being profitable, but farmers and other users of pesticides need much more support and advice on how to change from current practice' said Stephanie Williamson, PAN Europe. The conference takes place in the context of the elaboration by the European Commission of the Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides and in the context of the parallel Environment and Health Strategy and of the follow up of the Biodiversity Strategy.

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Notes to editors:
The programme of the conference can be found at PAN Europe web site (http://www.pan-europe.info/) together with the PAN Europe Suggested text for a Directive on pesticide use reduction in Europe, published in 2002 and co-signed by more than 80 civil society groups in 26 countries in Europe.
The proceedings of the conference will be available by December 2003 on the PAN Europe and EEB websites.

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