Ministers must stop Commission’s u-turn on high concern pesticides

Within the next ten days the European Commission is seeking approval by the Member States to authorise a number of dangerous pesticides(1) for use within Europe - several of which are mutagenic, hormone disrupting or toxic to reproduction. Today the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the Pesticides Action Network Europe have called in a letter(2) upon the Ministers of Agriculture, Environment and Consumers to reject these proposals.

The Member States will give their opinion on January 26th/27th, during the next meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH).

It seems strange that the European Commission is now proposing to approve these harmful pesticides when barely six months ago it had serious concerns about their safety. In several letters dated August 2005, the registrants, including multinationals such as Bayer, DuPont, BASF and Dow, were informed that the Commission was 'considering the possible non-inclusion of the substance'. In addition, the Commission itself specified the main risks related to each of the eight substances following negative results from the scientific evaluation conducted by Member States' experts and scientific advisors. According to these letters the Commission was concerned that, amongst other things:

  • Methamidophos poses risks to operators and consumers, as well as birds, mammals and aquatic organisms.
  • Procymidone has hormone mimicking potential, and poses risks to birds, mammals and aquatic organisms; in addition it leads to "dietary exposure from certain commodities".
  • Fenarimol also has hormone mimicking potential and poses high risks to breast-fed babies.

The new proposals point to the worrying lack of transparency in chemicals legislation and the absence of clear cut criteria for denying authorisations. In the REACH process as well, similar criteria that will ensure a phase-out will still have to be agreed upon during the forthcoming second reading. The European Parliament has paved the way more sensibly by voting that chemicals of very high concern should be authorised only when no safer alternatives are available and the use is essential to society.

Both environmental groups believe that the Commission's new proposals will threaten the health of European citizens and their environment, and indicate the need for a fundamental revision of the Directive governing the marketing of pesticides in the EU. A revision is ongoing and the Commission proposal is foreseen in Spring 2006, along with the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides, which should deliver clear cut criteria for phase-out as well as provisions for substitution of the most hazardous substances.

-- ENDS --

Notes to editors:

  1. Azinphos-methyl, Carbendazim, Dinocap, Fenarimol, Flusilazole, Methamidophos, Procymidone and Vinclozolin
  2. EEB/EEN/PAN Europe letter to Ministers (PDF 61 KB)

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