Will Commission ban hazardous pesticides or bend for powerful producers?

European Union Commissioners must tomorrow choose between protecting citizens' health or knuckling under to a coalition of powerful pesticide producers. DG SANCO(1) proposes to approve several hazardous pesticides for the EU market in a deal aimed at satisfying the agrochemicals industry, which seriously threatens the health of farmers, citizens, and the environment. EU Member States' representatives have already rejected the pesticide proposals on health and environmental grounds at the regulatory committee(2) meeting on 3 March. PAN Europe, the EEB and EEN wrote to the Commissioners endorsing the mainstream scientific view and insisting that the threat posed by these harmful chemicals is so grave that Commissioners should not hesitate to ban them(3).

DG SANCO's proposals would approve the use of eight dangerous pesticides(4) in Europe. Several are mutagenic, hormone- disrupting or cause infertility. The approval is for a limited number of crops and includes mitigation measures, such as imposing safety margins of several metres from water courses; obliging operators to wear protective equipment during the application and cleaning of equipment; and on reentering the treated area. "However, the proposals do not oblige users to indicate when an area has been treated with these pesticides." says Grazia Cioci, PAN Europe Brussels representative. "In-field monitoring of risk mitigation measures, including those envisaged, is unfeasible and places an impossible burden on Member States."

"Recent surveys demonstrate just how worried people are across Europe about the impact of current pesticide use on their health", says Génon Jensen, EEN Executive Director. "This is the moment for the Commission to show they are listening and refuse to approve another set of hazardous pesticides."

Unfortunately, DG SANCO still recommends approval of these harmful pesticides despite last year expressing grave concern over their safety. In letters sent in August 2005, the registrants, including the multinationals Bayer, DuPont, BASF and Dow, were told the Commission was 'considering the possible noninclusion of the substance'. Before mysteriously backtracking, the Commission had already outlined the main risks from each of the eight substances on the basis of the scientific evaluation by Member States' experts. The Commission expressed concern over:

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

Meanwhile, the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides is being revised and the Commission proposal is forecast for July 2006. "The discussion about these eight clearly unacceptable substances highlights the need for clear criteria for phasing out the most hazardous substances and making provision for their substitution," says Mecki Naschke, EEB's Chemicals Policy Officer.

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Notes to editors:

  1. Directorate General for Health & Consumer Affairs
  2. Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health
  3. EEB/EEN/PAN Europe letter to Commissioners (PDF 61 KB)
  4. Azinphos-methyl, Carbendazim, Dinocap, Fenarimol, Flusilazole, Methamidophos, Procymidone and Vinclozolin

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