Again a bad day for birds in Europe: brand new pesticides allowed on the market that put birds at risk


Two new pesticides for seed treatment, Sedexane, a Syngenta fungicide for wheat, and Penflufen, a Bayer fungicide for potatoes, both show high risks for birds according to the EFSA opinions [1], [2]. Health DG SANCO however proposes to approve these pesticides in the Standing Committee on 17th of May. A third pesticide with high risks for birds, Methiocarb, a Bayer insecticide for oil rape seed, is already on the market since 2007 based on a derogation allowing them to show that the high risks for birds aren't high. They failed to do so, but still Methiocarb is proposed for continued market access. PAN Europe identified around 40 pesticides showing a high risk to birds according to the different EFSA opinions [3], and nonetheless all of them were approved in the pesticide Standing Committee in recent years. In a landmark European-wide study Flavia Geiger et al. [4] investigated the negative influences of agricultural intensification on birds and showed that of the 13 components of intensification they measured, use of insecticides and fungicides had the largest negative effects. PAN Europe has sent out messages to all national representatives to vote for a ban on these three pesticides and help protecting the birds in Europe.

Hans Muilerman, PAN Europe chemical coordinator comments: "while the Pesticide Regulation is very clear in providing a high level of protection for birds, the Standing Committee fails to comply with the rules. There is no doubt that the background of these representatives -generally ministry of agriculture- creates a huge conflict of interest and non-justified decisions. The purpose of the Regulation to protect the environment is in Brussels 'comitology' substituted by providing a large set of chemicals for farmers".

The two new substances additionally show cancers in animal tests according to EFSA. Penflufen shows ovary and liver cancers in rat and is also carcinogenic in mouse. Additionally Penflufen delays sexual maturation and causes malformations in the foetus. Sedexane is classified by EFSA as "suspected of causing cancer' [5]. Animal tests show Sedexane is a multipotent carcinogen acting on liver, thyroid and uterus.

Hans Muilerman further comments: "Even new substances such as Penflufen and Sedexane show huge health risks like cancer. In Brussels risk assessment however these adverse effects are classified 'acceptable' based on questionable risk assessment tools. 'Historical control data' is such as tool. It is an industry invention and when proper controls in animal testing fail, this tool creates a second chance for industry by using historical data. Nobody in academic science uses historical control data. The tool 'human relevance' (enabling disqualification of adverse effects in test animals) -again developed by industry- is even worse and lacks experimental data. It is purely speculation of those accidentally performing the assessment. European risk assessment should be revised and based purely on scientific methods".

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Further information

1. European Food Safety Authority; Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment of the active substance sedaxane. EFSA Journal 2012;10(7):2823. [76 pp.] doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2823. Available online:

2. Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment of the active substance penflufen. EFSA Journal 2012;10(8):2860. [74 pp.] doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2860. Available online:

3. Examples of these group of 40 are (based on EFSA opinions for these pesticides): ethoprofos, chlorpyrifos, hymexazole, pyridaben, oryzalin, oxamyl, glufosinate, triticonazole, tebufenpyrad, phosmet, fipronil, dazomet, cypermethrin, aclonifen, epoxiconazole, imidacloprid, sulcotrion, dichlroprop-P, dimethoate, chlormequat, tebuconazole, fenpropadin, prochloraz, triclopyr, captan, folpet, mancozeb, maneb, abamectine

4. Flavia Geiger, Jan Bengtsson, FrankBerendse, WolfgangW.Weisser, Mark Emmerson, Manuel B.Morales, Piotr Ceryngier, Jaan Liira, Teja Tscharntke, CamillaWinqvist, So¨nke Eggers, Riccardo Bommarco, Tomas Pa¨rt, Vincent Bretagnolle, Manuel Plantegenest, Lars W.Clement, Christopher Dennis, CatherinePalmer, Juan J.On˜ate, Irene Guerrero, Violetta Hawro, Tsipe Aavik, CarstenThies, Andreas Flohre, Sebastian Ha¨nke, Christina Fischer, Paul W.Goedhart, Pablo Inchausti, Persistent negative effects of pesticides on biodiversity and biological control potential on European farmland, Basic and Applied Ecology 11 (2010) 97–105

5. European Food Safety Authority; Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment of the
active substance sedaxane. EFSA Journal 2013;11(1):3057. [76 pp.] doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2013.3057. Available online:

For further information please contact:

Hans Muilerman, Tel: +316 55807255, hans [at]

© PAN Europe, Rue de la Pacification 67, 1000, Brussels, Belgium, Tel. +32 2 318 62 55

PAN Europe gratefully acknowledges the financial support from the European Union, European Commission, DG Environment, Life+ programme. Sole responsibility for this publication lies with the authors and the funders are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.