25 Million kg of a very hazardous pesticide, the soil fumigant Metam Sodium, is released in the European environment every year based on an exception created by DG SANCO and the EU Member States that bans Metam but at the same time allows its use as “essential use”. Italy is by far the biggest user of this pesticide with 11 Million kg used in 2011 in vegetables and fruit . In practice, mandatory restrictions on the use were largely not applied by Member States. This is the conclusion of a new report of PAN Europe (PAN report metam 2011), evaluating the use of this loophole in 2011. Metam is used to keep monocultures in place and to serve outdated farming practices without proper crop rotations. This is in contrast with the EU Directive for the Sustainable Use of pesticides (2009/128/EC) as well as the spirit of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform to promote good agricultural practices.
The use of Metam causes huge air pollution and endangers residents. Evidence is available that Metam poses risks on cancer and on harmful effects for the unborn . Furthermore, metam and its breakdown products kill soil organisms like earthworms, pollute groundwater, pose a high risk for birds and mammals and a risk on pollution by long-range transport . Fiftheen EU Member states, among which France, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands and Portugal, use this derogation and do not seem to care about a sustainable agriculture. The fact that the 12 other Member states do not need Metam Sodium clearly questions the need of this derogation as “essential use”.
The restrictions of the “essential use” derogation these MSs imposed on themselves to protect people and the environment against the risks of Metam were largely not applied in practice, as shown in the survey of PAN-Europe (see MS overview tables in this report). The obligations to draw up an Action Plan in order to phase out use of Metam were not fulfilled and the expressed intent of phasing out Metam remained just a theory since the use was generally at the same level as in 2010. Required re-labelling and measures to protect people and the environment were not imposed or not reported. In 2012, EU Member States and DG SANCO managed to block the steps towards sustainable agricultural practices even further, by reversing their decision to ban Metam, giving it full approval until 2022. MSs ignored EFSA risk assessment and Metam’s risks to citizens and to groundwater, voting to widen its market access.
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1. Use is reported in rice, lettuce and like, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, cucurbits, carrots, bulb & stem vegetables, potatoes, tobacco; replanting vines & orchards, flowers
2. Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment of the active substance metam, European Food Safety Authority, EFSA Journal 2011;9(9):2334
3. Conclusion regarding the peer review of the pesticide risk assessement of the active substance metam, EFSA Scientific Report (2008) 203, 1-97
For further information please contact:
Hans Muilerman, Tel: +316 55807255, hans [at] pan-europe.info