December 2004 - March 2005
1. PAN Europe activities
Pesticide Use Reduction in Europe (PURE) campaign
In December 2004, the European Commission finally published the Extended Impact Assessment (EIA) by German consultancy firm BiPro of the possible proposed options for the Thematic Strategy for a sustainable use of pesticides. All new EC proposed legislation has to undergo an assessment of the costs and benefits of its implementation. PAN Europe had earlier raised concerns that BiPro’s draft assessment focused on economic costs of measures to reduce pesticide costs but did not give sufficient attention to the economic and other qualitative benefits from reducing health and environmental impacts.
In February 2005, PAN Europe’s comments to this EIA, coordinated by Catherine Wattiez, were submitted to DG Environment of the EC. We agree with some of the options recommended but have serious concerns on others. Regarding aerial spraying, BiPro recommend the option of “legally binding minimal requirements” to ensure “a proper aerial spraying”. We reject the rationale leading to this conclusion as one-sided and based on incorrect and insufficiently documented information and continue to demand a total prohibition within 5 years. Thanks to our partners Ecologistas en Accion in Andalucia, Spain, we were able to provide concrete information on how the current requirements for aerial spraying of olive groves often fail to be complied with and that BiPro’s estimates for the greater cost-effectiveness of aerial compared with ground spraying were not based on correct information.
To ensure a enhanced protection of water, we opt for the adoption of the “specific risk reduction measures as mandatory parts of the river basin management” under the Water Framework Directive option and demand the installation of a no-spraying zone along surface water as well as zones of no-pesticide or low pesticide use in order to protect groundwater. In relation to measures for motivating farmers to take up Integrated Pest Management, we in principle agree that some form of “general IPM requirements” should be included under cross-compliance, while more holistic “crop-specific IPM” needs incentives under agri-environment funding. However, we feel the BiPro estimates of mean volume use reduction potential of 10% and 20%, for farmers converting to “general” and “specific IPM” respectively, are very conservative and unambitious. Experience with “ crop specific IPM” schemes shows that much greater reductions can be achieved. We are concerned that the report takes for “general IPM requirements the IPM concept of EISA (European Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture) which in its French version of “Agriculture Raisonnée” hardly goes beyond legal requirements on using pesticides correctly. These “general IPM requirements” need to go beyond just good farming practices.
The EIA rejects specific targets for use reduction on the basis of one sided misinterpretation of incorrect data from the successful Danish experience based on a strict registration system and using treatment frequency as an index. The report agrees to reduce only “unintended use of pesticides” but we argue that it is necessary to reduce as much as possible the total exposure to pesticides by also reducing “intended use of pesticide. We also continue to press for a pesticide tax. PAN Europe is also very concerned that funding of “specific IPM” under the agri-environmental measures, whose budgetary envelope will remain equal, would be at the expenses of support, among others, for organic farming. PAN Europe calls for additional and significant economic incentives to convert to what is called in the report “general “ and “specific IPM”.
Stakeholder comments on the EIA, including ours, can be viewed at DG Environment’s webpages on the Thematic Strategy.
STOP PRESS: The Commission has just set up a public on-line consultation on its latest proposals available at the website below. The publication by the Commission of a proposal for a Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides is now scheduled for September 2005.
Lobbying on Maximum Residue Levels
In late November 2004, we again lobbied MEPs to support progressive amendments in the harmonisation of MRLs. Debate over proposals in the new European Pesticide Residue Directive came to an end at its 2nd reading, following successful consensus talks between Parliament and Council, when the consensus amendments passed the plenary voting on 15 December. We feel that our lobbying efforts during 2004, coordinated by Hans Muilerman in the Netherlands, were instrumental in getting stricter amendments into this directive:
- getting "known" cumulative and synergistic effects considered;
- taking children and the unborn as the most sensitive group to protect;
- taking all sources of exposure into account;
- making a review of all "available" recent scientific literature mandatory;
- evaluating immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption and developmental toxicity;
- setting standards at the lowest (strictest) level;
- making naming and shaming of companies exceeding standards optional for Member States
The EU will now develop a list of crops for which EU- wide MRLs should be set in next 18 months. It will compile all current national MRLs and select the most appropriate ones for use at EU level.
2. Published news and information
Directive 91/414/EEC: New EU approvals and withdrawals
New active ingredients and biopesticides
In December 2004, the EC’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health voted to give EU-wide approval to etoxazole, a new acaricide for use on cotton and vine and tepraloxidim, a new herbicide for control of grass weeds. The insecticide triazamate was not given approval. In January 2005 the EC added 6 new pesticide active ingredients to Annex 1 of authorisation Directive (91/414). These include: two biopesticides based on fungal agents Ampelomyces quisqualis and Gliocladium catenulatum; two herbicides, Syngenta’s S-metolachlor and Sumitomo’s imazosulfuron; a disease resistance stimulator, laminarin, and an insect growth regulator, methoxyfenozide. Member States are asked to take certain aspects into consideration while registering products based on these substances. Risk mitigation regulations must protect aquatic and terrestrial non-target plants for imazosulfuron, while similar action for non-target arthropods is required for methoxyfenozide. For S-metolachlor, MS must protect aquatic plants and pay attention to groundwater contamination in vulnerable regions. This herbicide gets PAN North America “Bad Actor’ status for being a potential ground water contaminant and suspected endocrine disruptor. The protection of spray operators is required when using the biopesticide Gliocladium catenulatum.
Existing active ingredients
In February 2005, it was decided to give EU-wide approval to 6 existing active ingredients. These are the fungicides chlorothalonil and thiophanate-methyl; herbicides chlorotoluron and tribenuron, the insecticide cypermethrin and the growth regulator daminozide. Both fungicides and daminozide warrant Bad Actor status. Chlorothalonil is highly acutely toxic according to US EPA, a possible carcinogen and potential groundwater contaminant. It was banned in Sweden for carcinogenic concerns. Thiophanate methyl is also a likely carcinogen and water contaminant and listed as a developmental or reproductive toxin, with slight acute toxicity. It was banned in Denmark due to soil persistence concerns and toxicity to earthworms, and restricted in Sweden. Daminozide is also possibly carcinogenic and banned for this reason in Sweden.
One piece of excellent news is that the EC will now withdraw approval for the insecticide endosulfan. However, it was granted essential use derogation until 2007 for cotton and tomato in Greece and Spain, on hazelnuts (Spain, Italy and Poland), strawberry (Poland), peppers, pears, potato and alfalfa (Greece) and on some ornamentals in Poland.
The EC’s revision of the authorisation directive has been delayed still further. The new proposal will now be published by the Commission in the second half of 2005, possibly as part of the Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides.
Public consultation on proposed amendments to Directive 91/414/EEC
DG Health and Consumer Protection of the Commission launched 10 March 2005 an “Interactive Policy Making” online consultation. Stakeholders can submit their inputs by 10 May 2005 latest. PAN E will be providing its positions.
EU review of lower risk pesticides
The “fourth round” of substances for review under 91/414 directive includes many chemical and biological agents of low risk to humans and environment. Companies wishing to gain EU-wide approval for these must submit dossiers by June 2005 for plant extracts, substances for treating stored products, and attractants/repellents and by November 2005 for others such as pheromones, micro-organisms and rodenticides. Sweden’s chemicals inspectorate, KEMI, intends to propose strategies and amendments to current legislation to ensure that these low risk pesticides remain on the market, including options to reduce the application fees for product registration. Many of the fourth round substances and microorganisms are for minor uses and many are considered key products in organic farming. Sweden, Poland and Czech Republic called for greater support for low risk substances, especially as many are produced by small companies which will struggle with high registration fees and data requirements.
Euro Parliamentarians call for stronger SCALE
The European Commission’s environment and health action plan 2004-2010 for the EU Strategy on Environment and Health (SCALE), has created major waves in European Parliamentary debates. At the parliament’s plenary sitting of 23 February 2005, a large majority of MEPS voted in support of the report by Belgian MEP Riese, criticizing the Action Plan for not bringing forward funding necessary to implement the plan, not concentrating on the health of EU’s Children and for lack of positive actions in the face of scientific evidence. The major controversy came in a vote on the reduction of exposure to already identified hazards to the health of particularly vulnerable populations. These included OPs chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion, OC endosulfan, as well as mercury, cadmium, certain phthalates and chlorinated solvents. The Parliament considered that ‘without prejudice to existing Community legislation and following the opinion of the relevant Scientific Committee, urgent consideration needs to be given to restricting the marketing and/or the use of [these] dangerous substances, to which new-born babies, children, pregnant women, elderly persons, workers and other high-risk sections of the population are heavily exposed, as safer alternatives become available’.
Pesticides may cause prostrate cancer say government advisers
UK government cancer advisers have for the first time said pesticides, particularly herbicides, might cause prostate cancer. They want better monitoring of pesticide use and the effects on farm workers and those living near sprayed fields. The Dept. of Health has been reviewing reasons for the huge increase in prostate cancer over past 20 years, with 27,000 new cases a year, affecting 1 in 13 men.
Pesticides may cause Parkinson’s Disease
According to the studies conducted by Medical Research Council (2002-2003) a UK-based extensive literature search and studies on epidemiological and toxicological data on specific compounds and mechanisms, there does appear to be evidence for a potential role of pesticides in the development of Parkinson’s. However, the present evidence is insufficient to establish causation for any individual pesticide. Further research is recommended to better understand the effects of pesticides on humans and the linkages.
Glyphosate and RoundUp affect oestrogen enzymes in human cells
Although glyphosate has been linked to pregnancy problems in agricultural workers, its mechanism of action in mammals is questioned. This study shows that glyphosate is toxic on human placental cells within 18 hours, at concentrations lower than in agricultural use. This effect increases with time and concentration or in the presence of adjuvant ingredients in its formulation as Roundup. The formulation is always more toxic than the active ingredient alone. The authors tested the effect of Roundup on aromatase, the enzyme responsible for oestrogen synthesis, at lower non-toxic concentrations and found that it acts as endocrine disruptor on aromatase activity and messenger RNA levels. Glyphosate itself interacts with the active site of the enzyme but its effect on enzyme activity was minimal unless Roundup was present. They conclude that endocrine and toxic effects of roundup and not only glyphosate can be observed in mammals and suggest that the presence of the formulation ingredients enhances glyphosate bioavailability and/or bioaccumulation.
Prof. Seralini earlier discussed this work at PAN Europe’s policy conference Reducing Pesticide Dependency in Europe to Protect Health, Environment and Biodiversity in November 2003 and his presentation can be read in the conference proceedings on our website.
UK wildlife poisonings decrease in 2003
According to the UK Dept. for Food, Farming and Rural Affairs’ Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme, number of pesticide poisonings were 397 as compared to 450 reported incidents in 2002, down by 12%.The incidents comprised: four from approved uses of pesticides; 85 from the deliberate abuse of pesticides to poison animals illegally; 17 from pesticide misuse; and 19 cases that could not be “reliably assigned to a particular category”.
Allergic reactions to biopesticides in Danish greenhouses
More than 300 Danish green house workers participated in a longitudinal respiratory health study to determine the effects of using biopesticides containing extracts of BT and Verticillium products. The presence of IgE antibodies to BT (23-29%) or Verticillium (9-21%) in their blood sera suggested these workers were being sensitized to these biopesticide products. Even though studies suggest microbial biopesticides may confer a risk of IgE- mediated sensitization research is at a preliminary stage. In the future allergenic components in the preparations need to be identified, studies performed on non-exposed controls and the relation between sensitization and health parameters needs to be analyzed.
Pesticide exposures for young children eating apples and pears
This study of the dietary exposure of pesticides in children (age 11/2 to 41/2), based on data from the UK Pesticide Residue Committee’s published monitoring results for apples and pears, looks at how the acute reference dose (ARD) can be exceeded when a combination of a high residue level and a high variability factor in residue distribution among individual fruits occurs. Modelling results based on Acute Reference Dose(ARD) of 0.04mg/kg bodyweight for apple and pears for carbendizim and dithiocarbamates and ARD of 0.02mg/kg for pear for phosmet suggested that variation in pesticide residues is sufficient to cause individual children to experience occasional exposures to pesticides at levels in excess of accepted safety thresholds, even in cases where the MRL is not regularly breached.
Friends of the Earth, who commissioned the study, highlighted how each day 10-226 British children under 5 years old could be eating more than the ARD just by consuming a single apple or pear, since residue levels in individual fruits vary widely. This worrying scenario has been calculated for average children, not those who eat a large amount of fresh fruit.
Organophosphate experiences and health effects in UK
A comprehensive report on OPs depicting the evidences of exposure and health effects among UK citizens was prepared at the suggestion of the All Party OP Parliamentary group. The report deals with OP exposure cases from sheep dips to the latest gulf war syndrome, drawing together cases of people with ill-health from different groups in society who have been exposed to OPs and who have suffered similar symptoms. It concludes by saying that the causal link between OPs and ill-health has been sufficiently demonstrated and that "It is now time for the government to put a greater emphasis on helping the victims of OP poisoning”. The All-Party OP Group in Parliament has asked the DEFRA minister responsible for policy on veterinary medicines, to remove existing sheepdips from the market and compensate farmers who are ill from OP exposure.
Impact of runoff-related pesticide contamination in Germany
The study assessed how runoff-related contamination contributes to differentiation in the macro-invertebrate communities inhabiting 6 streams in northern Germany. The community composition in three streams exposed to maximum total pesticide levels between 0.2x and 0.01x acute toxicity to Daphnia waterfleas (48-h LC50) was clearly distinct from that at three control sites. It revealed that possibility of contamination of small streams by pesticides can be significant and should be taken in to account in routine investigation of water quality and re-evaluation under EU water directives, as well as the need for safety factors in the procedures for the registration of new pesticides.
Pesticides down by 23% in U.K waters
Findings from the Environment Agency’s annual pesticide monitoring programme revealed that levels of the 9 most commonly used pesticides in British waters decreased by 26% as compared with the average for the previous five year period. This could be attributed to a number of possible factors such as low levels of rainfall in autumn 2003 and better application techniques by farmers encouraged through the industry-led Voluntary Initiative programme to reduce environmental impacts. The top nine most frequently found pesticides in freshwater environments were all widely used herbicides including mecoprop, isoproturon and diuron. Sheep dip chemicals are still a significant and widespread problem impacting on river ecology and causing freshwater samples to fail to meet environmental quality standards.
Banned 2,4-D still persists in Swedish waters
This herbicide, banned in Sweden in 1990, can still be found in Swedish watercourses, according to researchers from the Swedish University for Agriculture who keep track pesticide levels. They found 2,4-D content from the records of 2003 in streams and watercourses, especially Ostergotland and also in Scania. Reasons could be that there may be buried stocks of pesticides in the ground, or farmers may be holding some stocks still. Cold weather may also have affected the rate of break-down of the pesticide.
Portugal’s decree on pesticide safety
The Portugese Ministry of Agriculture has passed a decree to reduce environmental risk and impact of pesticide applications. The decree aims to reduce the risks in pesticide distribution and sales, improve pesticide residue monitoring in agricultural products, water and soil, and modernise the national agricultural communication service. Activities will include measures to improve pesticide warehouses and cut down on pesticide stockpiling.
Scotland to restrict pesticide possession
The Scottish Executive plans to introduce legislation banning the possession of pesticides containing certain active ingredients without a “lawful” excuse under its 2004 Nature Conservation Act. This is to address the unacceptable practice of killing birds of prey and other wildlife by illegal poisoning. It invited public comments on the proposed active ingredients to be covered: aldicarb, carbofuran, chloralose, mevinphos and strychnine Similar proposals are expected to be tabled in England and Wales.
Pesticides sales increase in Sweden
In 2003 sales increased 22% over the previous year, totalling 2,085t active ingredient. This increase was despite a 50% increase in the government pesticide tax to 30 Swedish Kroner (3.34 euros) per kg ai in 2003. Government statistics show that while insecticide and growth regulator use declined, sales of herbicides and fungicides increased to give the overall average increase.
3. News from PAN Europe partners
Spanish NGOs lobby for a halt to aerial spraying of olives
At the end of January 2005, NGOs including PURE partners Ecologistas en Accion set up an Andalucian Platform for Substitution of Aerial Spraying. Aerial spraying is currently financed 75% from the EU under a programme which aims to improve the quality of olive oil and reduce its environmental impacts! Olive fly is a serious pest decreasing olive oil quality and in Andalucia, EU funds are being used to control it conventionally by aerial application of dimethoate, causing serious environmental and health problems. At least 40% of spray volumes fall directly on soil and 20% remains suspended as drift, which can travel long distances. Watercourses, bees, wildlife, livestock can also be affected. A key problem is in implementing the regulations governing aerial application. Pilots are supposed to leave a 150m buffer zone to protect organic olive farms, which cover 50,000ha, along with water courses, protected nature zones, vegetable and fruit plots and forested areas, but in practice this is virtually impossible in the mountainous areas of Andalucia. Natural parks, Natura 2000 sites, biosphere reserves and areas for special protection for birds, which contain conventional olive production end up being sprayed 3-5 times per year, with the apparent approval of Andalucia’s Environment Council. Several people suffered allergic reactions and nervous system alterations in 2004 when fumigation planes flew directly overhead and organic farms were contaminated with dimethoate.
The Platform is made up of representatives from the zones most badly affected by aerial spraying and they demand its substitution with other control practices. It calls on the regional directors for agriculture and environment to engage in dialogue on addressing the negative impacts, and asks for a halt to aerial spraying this season. The Platform aims to promote ecologically sustainable olive production. Its members want the regional Agriculture Council to renew efforts for mass trapping of olive fly, proven successful by some organic co-operatives, as an interim measure while more research is done on sustainable alternatives to chemical control. It also calls for development of an Andalucian plan for pesticide use reduction.
French partners take agrochemical industry to court over publicity campaign
On 10 February 2005, the French Union of Plant Protection Companies (UIPP) launched a major six-month “communications initiative” entitled “Pesticides: we can ask a question, we can find an answer” (see http://www.protectiondesplantes.fr). For the UIPP, the idea is to help everyone understand and to inform people why the pesticides are useful. This media campaign, featuring advertisements in popular national magazines (Paris Match, Elle, Marie Claire…) has enfuriated French environmental NGOs and organic farmers associations because it aims to promote pesticides in a misleading way. The UIPP campaign fails to talk about preventing health impacts and gives the impression that only intensive industrialised agriculture is able to feed the world. Francois Veillerette, of our partners Mouvement pour les Droits de le Respect des Générations Futures (MDRGF) explained to national newspapers that “The objective of the UIPP is to make pesticides socially acceptable, by making an uninformed public think that they are not dangerous to health and the environment, that their use is totally indispensable and that anyway, organic food is not better for health”.
MDRGF and other organisations have issued a writ against UIPP and the magazines to obtain the suspension of the advertisements, on the grounds that the publicity is misleading, and a right of answer to be published in these magazines. They have also organised a public cyber-action against magazines who published the adverts, with more than 3,500 readers writing in protest to magazine editors.
On 9 March 2005, this summary procedure was examined in the court of Rennes in a packed audience chamber and with environmental, organic farmers and consumers organisations demonstrating outside with placards. The UIPP defence tried to claim that the fact that pesticides go through an assessment and authorisation procedure eliminates any negative repercussions and dismissed any possible consequences for environment and health as scare-mongering. Other PAN partners and PURE supporters involved in the protest campaign are Réseau Cohérence, Eaux et Rivières de Bretagne and Nature et Progrès. MRDGF and partners are now waiting for the verdict but also considering legal action as a possibility to prove – via a justice decision – that pesticides are dangerous for the health and environment.
Two new PAN Germany Brochures on pesticides in Central and Eastern Europe
Pesticides: Hot Issues - NGO Objectives and Actions Needed in Central and Eastern Europe: This brochure has the information contributed by NGO’s of Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Czech Republic and deals with specific pesticide issues in their region. The problems of unsafe pesticide stockpiles and the statistics , list of contaminated sites, health impacts of pesticide use on rural populations, especially women, and possible solutions were provided based on NGOs’ experiences and their activities in these areas.
Facts & Figures – Agriculture and Pesticide Use in Central and Eastern Europe: This brochure supplies statistics of agriculture situation and pesticide usage in five large new EU member states: Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and also includes the candidate country Bulgaria. Impact of politics in Central and East European (CEE) countries and comparison with 15 EU countries is also discussed and an overview of the relevant pesticide legal frameworks of these countries.
PAN UK publishes new report on pesticide exposures
For the first time, a year’s official reports of pesticides in our food, water, and the environment have been brought together. In People’s pesticide exposures – poisons we are exposed to every day without knowing it, government data are set out beside the results of PAN UK’s unique surveys. The report also includes pesticide ‘incidents’ and ‘bystander’ exposures. The failure by pesticide companies to report ‘adverse’ health information (poisonings) – when the obligation to do so is a central plank in the government’s post-approvals health monitoring system – is also described. PAN has discovered that, in some drinking water tests, every single pesticide, of dozens tested for, is detected – mostly below the legal limit. Problem pesticides occur repeatedly. Certain local authorities responsible for private drinking water supplies have not tested for pesticides since 1991, when regulations were introduced. Food contamination is a growing problem and now an acknowledged risk to young children and the elderly. PAN’s unique analysis reveals a cocktail of chemicals in food. Mostly, but not always, below legal limits, 65 per cent of them are recognised hazards to health: 35 per cent are suspected cancer-causing chemicals, 12 per cent are hormone-disrupting chemicals, and 41 per cent are acutely toxic.
More sustainable production of bananas needed
The Swedish Society of Nature Conservation first investigated the banana industry ten years back and recommended organic bananas as the best alternative. But their recent studies on the conventional banana industry astonished them, revealing that in spite of IPM techniques and safe handling of chemicals there is still 50kg/ha of pesticides being used, which SSNC says is not acceptable. SSNC says there should be clearly set acceptable limits to the pesticide usage in sustainable production and certification of organic bananas by the authorities at all the levels internationally in order to prevent the damage to human health and environment.
More information and full report from the website of SSNC
Bulgaria hosts conference on Pesticide Impacts in the Danube and Black Sea Region
FoE Bulgaria is an organiser of this international conference to be held between 13th-15th May 2005 at the Golden Sands seaside resort, Varna, in the northern part of Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast. The conference will cover latest data on adverse effects of pesticides on population and worker’s health, legislation, strategy and sources of contamination and water contamination in the Danube river basin.
This PAN Europe Newsletter was compiled by Stephanie Williamson and Mangaprabha Waggott.
Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members, PURE supporters and individuals