March - May 2003
1. PAN Europe activities
Advance notice for PAN Europe conference
We will be holding our 2003 conference for network members and invited speakers on 21-22 November in Copenhagen, Denmark. The conference will be preceded on 20 November by a public workshop on Pesticide Use Reduction experiences and progress. The conference and workshop will highlight aspects of Denmark’s successful Pesticide Use Reduction programme. Further details will be available in July.
Pesticide Use Reduction in Europe (PURE) campaign
As of May 2003, 73 organisations in 23 European countries have signed up to support the PURE campaign, including environmental, public health, consumer and farmer organisations.
We continue to liaise with interested stakeholders on different aspects of PURE. PAN-E partners in Germany, UK and the Netherlands are actively engaging with their national governments on use reduction strategies, as reported in the June 2003 issue of Pesticides News.
Lobbying on EC pesticide policy- Parliament votes for use reduction
We lobbied MEPs in March on our voting recommendations for the Parliament voting on the van Brempt report on the Commission’s proposed Thematic Strategy on sustainable use of pesticides. PAN-E was very pleased that Parliament voted for urgent and much stricter measures to combat health and environmental risks and for mandatory EU action for use reduction (and not just risk reduction). A majority of MEPs supported the need for clear reduction goals and timetables, although they did not adopt the Environment Committee’s request for a 50% reduction target in 10 years nor an EU framework for pesticide taxes or levies.
Other very positive elements among the 40 recommendations to the Commission include: the need for mandatory national reduction plans; extra financial and regulatory support for biological alternatives; calls for designation of pesticide vulnerable zones and a system of compulsory protection zones for all surface water; concrete and mandatory targets and timetables for ICM and sustainable organic agriculture and mandatory IPM for all public authorities; extra financial support for conversion to low-input and organic agriculture; and amending European trading standards fresh fruit and vegetables which encourage the intensive use of pesticides on fresh fruit and vegetables.
Public Participation in Pesticide Evaluation
PAN-E‘s study, led by Ute Meyer, on NGO and Public Participation in Pesticide Policy Processes concluded with an NGO workshop on 17-18 March in the Netherlands. We discussed the study findings and different options for future participation and lobbying around the pesticides authorisation Directive 91/414. The 43 page study report How to organise public participation in the pesticides evaluation process? gives a very useful and overview of the EU decision-making process of assessing individual active ingredients, geared to readers without technical knowledge. It looks at the many different organisations involved and issues of access to information, commercial confidentiality and the Right to Know, comparing the pesticide authorisation process in Germany, UK and the Netherlands and with risk assessment processes in other chemicals, water and marine regulation and pesticide residues. The study concludes by describing current obstacles to and basic conditions for improving public participation and can be obtained from the PAN-E Coordinator in London. The Commission’s draft revision of Directive 91/414 is still awaited (published further delayed until the summer at the earliest) and transparency and participation issues are due to addressed in the review proposals. PAN-E is preparing a Position Paper on our demands for transparency and public participation.
Lobbying against paraquat
We again joined with EEB to support lobby efforts by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation to urge against including paraquat in Annex I of Directive 91/414, when this was discussed on 14 April by member state representatives on the Commission Standing Committee on Food Chain & Animal Health (SCFA). Yet again there was no qualified majority among member states so the Commission decided to postpone voting, due to uncertainties of the standpoint of France. The Commission’s draft review report draws attention to exposure problems for ground-nesting birds and brown hares, which would require substantial risk assessment and mitigation measures (e.g. spraying in early morning) if paraquat’s further use is approved. In PAN-E’s views, these measures are unlikely to enforced in practice. Sweden, one of six European countries which have banned paraquat, has stressed the need to take into account realistic conditions including improper use in the risk assessment for paraquat. It believes there are unacceptable risks to operators from accidental exposure and also feels a positive EU decision on paraquat would send out contradictory signals in relation to the problems resulting from the herbicides’ use in developing countries. The next voting will be on 26 June but as France eventually decided it will accept inclusion, it now looks likely now that paraquat will be cleared for Annex I, unless another member state changes its mind.
2. News and Information
Latest approval decisions- aldicarb and more OPs out but…
Decisions to exclude several hazardous active ingredients of concern to public interest groups from Annex I of the EU pesticides authorisation directive were made in recent weeks. These include the organophosphates parathion methyl (WHO Class 1a) and acephate. Registrations for products containing these must be withdrawn by September 2003, with a possible further 12 month grace period for using up existing stocks. It was decided also to exclude the fungicide metalaxyl, with product authorisations to be withdrawn by November 2003.
There was lengthy debate over the carbamate aldicarb (Class 1a), with the Commission recommending exclusion, mainly because of the high risk of granular formulations to small birds and earthworms. The manufacturers admitted that granules could remain on the soil surface after treatment. Several Member States fought hard to keep access to aldicarb, while Friends of the Earth and PAN-E members lobbied hard against it. A decision to exclude aldicarb was finally made by the Agriculture Council as no qualified majority was formed among the SCFA members. But a compromise was made to allow 8 Member States to continue its use on specific crops until 2007. These include potato in UK, Netherlands and Greece, beet in Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands and cotton and citrus in Spain and vines in Portugal and France, amongst others. For other crops and countries, aldicarb products must not be used after September 2004. Countries permitted to continue aldicarb use must report their yearly usage and on how they are seeking alternatives by end 2004.
Seven more existing active ingredients were approved for Annex I inclusion: herbicides 2,4-DB, linuron, pendimethalin, insecticides cyfluthrin and beta-cyfluthrin, iprodione fungicide and the plant growth regulator maleic hydrazine. Each approval was made with specific conditions on risk mitigation, for example, the two insecticides were not considered safe under field spray conditions and are only authorised on ornamentals in greenhouses and as seed treatment.
Glyphosate polluting Danish ground and drinking water
A new study by the Denmark and Greenland Geological Research Institution reveal that Denmark's most popular herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) is polluting Danish underground water far more than previously thought. Researchers commented that when glyphosate is applied according to government regulations, it is washed down into the upper ground water with a concentration of 0.54 microgramme per litre (µg/l). This finding is surprising, because they previously believed that bacteria in the soil broke down the glyphosate before it reached the ground water. Statistics from the Environment Ministry show that the use of glyphosate has doubled in the last five years. In 2001, 800 tons was used, a quarter of farmers’ total use of pesticides. The consequences of the new information is that waterworks in 5-10 years will need to clean the water before Danes can drink it. The Environment Ministry is now considering making spraying regulations for glyphosate stricter.
Latest food residue monitoring data
The Commission published its latest report on national and EU-coordinated monitoring in 2001. In fresh fruit, vegetable and cereal produce, 41% contained residues and 3.9% exceeded either national or EU Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs). There was no clear trend in residue occurrence although the percentage of samples containing multiple residues (18%) had increased compared to the previous four years. From the national monitoring, the Netherlands emerged as the country with the highest percentage of samples containing residues (49%), followed by Belgium and France. 9.1% of Dutch samples exceeded MRLs and 32.6% contained multiple residues. The ten most frequently found pesticides reported by all EU countries, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein were: maneb group; chlormequat; imazalil; benomyl group; thiabendazol; chlorpyrifos; iprodione, procymidone; bromide; and endosulfan.
The EU-wide coordinated monitoring focuses on testing for 36 pesticides in apples, tomato, lettuce, strawberries and table grapes. Residues were found in 49% of samples and exceeded in 2.2%. Maneb group fungicides were found most often, in 24% of lettuce and grapes and 11% tomato and apples. MRLs for maneb were exceeded in 2.5% of lettuce samples, and for benomyl in 2.2% of strawberries. Highest levels of residues were also topped by maneb, at 31mg/kg in lettuce. Assessing acute risk, the data show that the Acute Reference Dose was exceeded for endosulfan in lettuce for adults and toddlers and for triazophos in apples for toddlers and the report notes that health risks may exist, especially for toddlers eating large amounts of these foodstuffs with high residue levels.
Worst ever levels of residues in grapes in discount supermarkets
In autumn 2002, Dutch PAN partners Nature and Environment Foundation (SNM) sent table grapes of Italian, Spanish and Turkish origin purchased in Dutch stores of the German price-fighter supermarkets Aldi and Lidl for analysis. Of the 65 Lidl samples, 77% exceeded Dutch MRLs, by up to four times in two cases. An average 5.3 pesticides were found and three samples contained ten pesticides. Figures for the 47 Aldi grape samples were 75% MRL violation and 5.1 pesticides on average, with similar figures as Lidl for very high levels. In comparison, other supermarkets reported MRL violations in 30-50% samples in 2001 and with averages of 2.5-3.7 pesticides found. The Dutch Consumer Inspection Dept found MRL violations of 20-39% between 1999-2002. SNM concluded that grapes sold by Aldi and Lidl supermarkets are far more contaminated than other sources and that such fruit should never have been offered to customers. Unless these two supermarkets agree to make changes in their behaviour this summer, SNM will challenge them in court, as they have already successfully done with major Dutch supermarkets in 2002.
New baby food MRLs set for 16 pesticides rather than bans
In March the Commission amended two directives on residues in baby food, following representations from the agrochemical industry concerned that previous proposals would have completely banned the use of certain pesticides on crops intended for baby food. MRLs were set at 0.04mg/kg for fipronil, 0.06mg/kg for cadusafos, demeton-s-methyl and propineb and 0.08 for ethoprophos. For a further 11 pesticides already withdrawn or to be removed from the market in 2003, MRLs were set at 0.03mg/kg as environmental contamination may remain for some time. These relate to: aldrin/dieldrin, disulfoton, endrin, fensulfothion, fentin, haloxyfop, heptachlor, HCB, nitrofen, omethoate and terbufos. Generally, MRLs for baby food are set at 0.01mg/kg. The amended directives must be implemented by March 2004. Agrow 420, March 14th, p 10, 2003.
Residue levels in food to be harmonised in EU
The Commission has produced a proposal for a single new regulation to cover the four existing MRL directives. The aim is to remove trade barriers under the existing situation where Member States may operate different MRLs and to lay out the roles of the new European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which will take over risk assessment functions. The Commission will be responsible for risk management decisions, taking into account EFSA opinions. EU-wide MRLs only exist for a proportion of the 160,000 active ingredient/crop combinations and the proposal is to work towards effectively prohibiting the presence of any residue for which no Community-wide MRL exists. The Commission is proposing a default MRL at the Limit of Determination (LOD) for the hundreds of pesticides coming of the EU market this year or for which there is insufficient data to set specific MRLs. The level proposed is 0.01mg per kg (the default level already applied for baby food), which the Commission believes is adequate to ensure consumer protection in almost all cases. For the 388 active ingredients remaining on the market which do not currently have EU-wide MRLs, it proposes to set temporary MRLs, based on existing national ones, to avoid blocking usage of many products. The Commission recognises that some existing national MRLs may be unsafe, but argues that under the Directive 91/414 authorisation process, substances approved for Annex I inclusion will then have MRLs fixed, those excluded will receive LOD MRLs after their phase-out period, while unsafe ones will be identified by EFSA and reduced as necessary. Therefore the consumer will not be any worse off than at present. There is provision for setting import tolerance MRLs for imported foods treated with pesticides not or no longer used in the EU, except for those which were evaluated and specifically withdrawn for consumer protection reasons. The proposal has to be approved by Parliament and Council, for possible implementation from 2005.
Illegal and obsolete pesticides in Eastern Europe
The Ukraine estimates that 18% of pesticides sold on its domestic market are either fake or illegally imported. It has opened its first incineration plant to deal with these and plans to build another two. Obsolete stocks are estimated at 15,000 tonnes, while the Russian Federation may have 20,000 and Poland, 60,000 tonnes. Localised hotspots of contamination are commonly associated with storage and disposal of pesticides in the region. More than 20% of agricultural land surveyed in the Ukraine has soil contaminated with DDT and degradation products and 45 with hexachlorine-cyclohexane.
The European Environment Agency's latest assessment of the environment in Europe, prepared for the 'Environment for Europe' ministerial conference in Kiev in May covers a total of 52 countries, including for the first time the whole of the Russian Federation and the 11 other Eastern European, Caucasus and Central Asian (EECCA) states. It shows that most of the progress towards environmental improvement continues to come from 'end-of-pipe' measures to limit pollution or as a result of economic recession and restructuring in many parts of Europe. The state of the environment across Europe has improved in several respects over the past decade, but much of the progress is likely to be wiped out by economic growth because governments have yet to make significant strides towards decoupling environmental pressures from economic activity. This is a particular risk for the EU accession countries and the EECCA states if economic growth continues to be based on traditional, environmentally damaging activities, rather than on more sustainable, eco-efficient options.
Pesticide levels in Portuguese waters and Spanish soils
Results from surveying three river basins between 1983-99 show surface water contamination at levels above 0.1 microgramme per litre by atrazine, chlorfenvinphos, endosulfan, lindane, molinate and simazine. Highest concentrations were for molinate at 48 µg/l and chlorfenvinphos at 32µg/l. Groundwater from wells collected between 1991-98 detected maximum concentrations of alachlor (13), atrazine (30), metolachlor (56), metribuzine (1.4) µg/l in the Baixo Sorraia area where herbicides are regularly applied to irrigated maize, tomato and potato. Simazine was the herbicide with the widest occurrence, probably associated with the above crops, vineyards and orchards.
Pesticide residue sampling in soils from rice fields in the Albufera Natural Park wetlands, near Valencia, in Spain was conducted in 1996-97. Chlorpyrifos, endosulfan and pyridaphenthion were commonly found in rice soils, at levels of up to 0.49mg/kg. Chlorpyrifos was the most frequently detected, probably due to its common use on citrus and vegetables in the surroundings of the park. The study concludes that pesticide residues from external sources are important, transported by irrigation waters, and pesticide concentrations were always higher in the topsoil in the autumn.
Persistent organochlorines in Spanish inhabitants
A new review covers food contamination and body burden of persistent toxic substances. Of pasteurised milk samples, 94% contained HCH (hexachlorocyclohexane) and 74% DDT analogues. Spanish butter samples had significantly higher levels than other EU countries of HCH and DDE . It is estimated that 80-100% of the Spanish population may have detectable body concentrations of Dde, PCbs, HCB (hexachlorobenzene) or lindane. The review questions whether DDT residues in people and food come from old or new exposure and whether contamination is from imported food or illegal use in Spanish farming. One study from the town of Flix, near to a factory producing HCB and which for many years produced DDT and other persistent substances, associated thyroid and brain cancer and soft –tissue sarcomas with exposure to organochlorines with a high HCB content. Another associated specific health effects only in more highly exposed subjects. A study of Flix babies suggests that HCB exposure reduces growth in the womb.
French worries about pesticide use and exposure
Latest figures for 2002 show sales of 85,000 tonnes of pesticide products, a slight levelling off, yet France remains the second largest consumer of pesticides in the world, after the US. Concerns about the need for pesticide reduction are growing within government sectors, which until recently worried mostly about nitrate contamination of water. A survey on pesticide vigilance by the Mutualite Sociale Agricole showed that only 50% of pesticide operators used the required protective clothing (overalls, mask and gloves). The Food Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture carried out 2,018 inspections of farmers in 2002 and issued 536 notices to respect regulations and 55 verbal warnings. Current agricultural policy which insists on high yields is driving pesticide reliance up, especially the abandonment of crop rotation by the majority of cereal farmers. Short rotations in wheat, maize and sunflower are linked to increasing recourse to pesticides.
Massive fish kills in England
Over 100,000 fish were killed by a pesticide spill on the river Slea in Lincolnshire in eastern England in February. Empty cypermethrin drums being moved for disposal leaked small traces of the insecticide, which resulted in devastating effects along a 21km stretch of river. The UK Environment Agency described it as “one of the most severe river pollution incidents in Lincolnshire in living memory” and are investigating, with a view to possible prosecution. Greenfly no2, PAN UK, 2003.
The European Court has just rejected the application of Dow AgroSciences and others
(in early 2002) to remove pesticides from the Water Framework Directive (WFD) priority chemicals list. Industry’s argument was that the WFD priority listing (based on a simple hazard and environmental monitoring approach) would prejudge Directive 91/414 pesticides authorisation decisions (based on full risk assessment). The Court declared the complaint as inadmissible. Up till now there has been considerable legal uncertainty over whether WFD decisions would be prioritised over 91/414, or vice versa. This news suggests that the WFD chemicals control mechanisms may be legally overriding the pesticides authorisations. It is important that the hazard-based prioritisation and control under the WFD is not watered down.
The PAN Europe Newsletter is produced by Stephanie Williamson, PAN-E Coordinator, Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members.