A RACE TO THE BOTTOM: Pesticide authorisation bodies in Europe compete for industry applications, sacrificing the protection of the environment


A new Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN-E) study reveals that the national authorities in the Netherlands fail to protect the environment against the harmful effects of pesticides. European Regulation 1107/2009 provides that national authorities have to ensure –based on proper research by industry on the local crop, animal, situation and climate- that there is a reasonable certainty that no unacceptable effects on the environment occur, not on birds, not on bees, mammals nor waterorganisms after the use of pesticides. The survey of PAN-E shows that the responsible Dutch body -Ctgb [1]- generally is not requesting specific studies for Dutch crops and Dutch local situations to assess the adverse effects of pesticides and assumes that all studies in any other Member State count as well. Ctgb reported last year to Dutch Parliament that they intend to drop environmental standards to be ’more competitive’ with other authorisation bodies in Europe, being cheaper and more able to attract industry applications. This was the reason for the survey, commissioned by Dutch ministry of the environment.

It appears, for instance, that results of studies regarding the insecticide Fipronil in France used on sunflowers were considered applicable for the Netherlands -while sunflowers are not grown in the Netherlands- and considered applicable for all Dutch crops. Additionally, in many authorisations Ctgb even does not request studies from the industry but accepts assumptions and reasoning of industry as a solid evidence of no harm. For the fungicide Fenpropadin, Ctgb just accepted all claims of no harm from the applicant without asking experimental studies and evidence. Even known „high risks” for biodiversity are ignored. An example is the herbicide Glufosinate where "high risks" for birds and mammals according to European Food Authority EFSA are completely disregarded. Ctgb also generally doesn't impose mitigation measures for the environment such as buffer zones. For the fungicide Folpet, for example, EFSA states a buffer zone of 5 - 15 meter is required; Ctgb doesn't impose any buffer zone at all.

Hans Muilerman,  PAN-Europe chemicals coordinator, says that Dutch Ctgb is engaged in a ’race-to-the-bottom’ to be the cheapest authorisation body in Europe for industry to get a big share of the applications of industry.  The money (fees) and prestige (being a big institute) prevails over meeting the legal requirements and serving the mission of Ctgb to protect the environment.

Dozens and dozens of cases of pesticides with „high risks” for birds, mammals, bees -as concluded by Food Authority EFSA-  already were dismissed by DG SANCO and routinely result in an European approval (see previous PAN report [2]) as Member States behind closed doors decided that pesticides will never be banned or blocked for environmental reasons exclusively . The Member States forced DG SANCO to change the implementation rules and demanded them to disregard the legal requirements on the environment. These member states argued that their local situation is different and that they might identify acceptable use and will be able to put in place effective mitigation measures to prevent the ”high risks” observed. The survey of PAN-E now indicates (at least for one member state) that the member states and their ministries of agriculture were not serious in protecting the environment and respecting the European rules. PAN-E has asked Commissioner Borg of DG SANCO to perform similar surveys in other member states and stop accepting this illegal situation.

1. College voor de Toelating van Gewasbeschermingsmiddelen en biociden (Committee for the authorisation of pesticides and biocides)

2. PAN report on resubmission

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Further information

PAN Europe report: A RACE TO THE BOTTOM: Pesticide authorisation bodies in Europe compete for industry applications, sacrificing the protection of the environment.

PAN Europe's letter to Commissioner Borg concerning the implementation of pesticide Regulation 1107/2009

For further information please contact:

Hans Muilerman, Tel: +316 55807255 hans [at] pan-europe.info

© 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.