July - August 2005
1. PAN Europe activities
Next Pesticide Use Reduction in Europe (PURE) Working Group Meeting, 12-13 October, Brussels
The next PURE working group meeting will be held in Brussels, 12-13 October. The main objective is to coordinate actions at the national and the EU level towards two key legislative processes in the pipeline: the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides and the revision of the Authorisations Directive (Directive 91/414/CEE).
Workshop on Pesticide Reduction Programmes in Germany and the UK, 5 July, Hamburg
On 5th July 2005 PAN Germany and PAN UK, in cooperation with PAN Europe, held the workshop on “Pesticide Reduction Programmes in Germany and the UK – Experiences and Contributions within a Europe-wide Approach”. The aim of the workshop was to organise an exchange of views and identify elements for successful pesticide use reduction programmes.
Thirty-two participants attended the workshop and discussed the pesticide reduction policies in Germany and the UK against the background of the development of a “Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides” in Europe, as well as experiences in different European countries. In the first session, the European political framework for national pesticide policies and also the history of the development of pesticide reduction programmes in Europe were highlighted. The main topic of the second session was a detailed view of the official German and British pesticide reduction policies and in addition to have a look at these national policies from the retailers’ and from the farmer points of view. In the third session other European pesticide reduction experiences were taken into account (Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium and Austria). The final session served for discussion and to draw some conclusions about crucial points that need further discussion and action.
The next PAN Europe Annual Conference will be organised in such a way to continue this discussion. The reorganisation of PAN Europe working groups was considered so that partners interested in different areas can work in smaller groups.
Results of the IPM consultation Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides
The results of the IPM consultation have been published by the European Commission. You can view statistics and charts at the Commission's website: http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/ppps/home.htm. There were 1,772 responses to the on-line questionnaire, of which half came from France and Germany.
Some of the answers proposed by PAN Europe were reflected in the results of the questionnaire. For example:
- the importance of the proposed elements in the National Action Plans including the introduction of special requirements for application of pesticides by aerial spraying and the restriction on the use in public areas;
- the importance of the proposed minimum requirements for training and awareness raising including compulsory participation with certification of participants;
- compulsory control and standardisation of sprayers;
- introduction of specific measures for aerial spraying;
- creation of areas of strongly reduced use or zero PPP use;
- collection of packaging and obsolete products by the industry or a specific body for the purpose.
In other issues PAN Europe’s suggested answers were not the highest vote receivers but received a high number of responses, for example:
- further definition of Integrated Pest Management;
- taxation of pesticides in order to influence the choice of least harmful products;
- taxation of pesticides in order to finance the measures of the Thematic Strategy.
The European Commission proposal for a Thematic Strategy is expected in Autumn 2005.
CASCADE Open Forum in Visby, Sweden
On July 8 2005, CASCADE (Chemicals as Contaminants in the Food Chain) Network of Excellence hosted the international seminar 'The chemical pollutants in our food' in connection with the Visby politicians' week. The CASCADE Network of Excellence, financed by the European Commission, seeks durable coordination and integration of European research on the human health effects of chemical residues in food.
PAN Europe Board Member François Veillerette participated in the seminar and was of the firm opinion that we do not need to wait for more research to take legislative action against chemicals in food, His perspective received support from many others in the panel and audience.
A report from the event will be published on CASCADE web site soon at http://www.cascadenet.org/
Endocrine disruptor fungicides due to be approved in Europe
The dossiers for the fungicides vinclozolin and procymidone are complete and these two substances are due to be re-approved for placement on the EU market in one of the next sessions of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH). Facing this possibility, PAN Europe decided to act, sending a letter to all ministers and representatives in this meeting, as well as European Commission and European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), in a plea against the inclusion of these substances.
Detectable levels of residues of vinclozolin and procymidone are consistently found in European fruits and vegetables and there is indisputable scientific evidence of endocrine disrupting properties of these two substances and non-repairable damage at a young age caused by exposure (Anway et al., 2005). Vinclozolin is one of the substances with evidence of endocrine disrupting or evidence of potential endocrine disrupting properties listed in the Communication from the Commission to the Council (Com (2001) 262 final) on the implementation of the Community Strategy for Endocrine Disruptors – a range of substances suspecting of interfering with the hormone systems of humans and wildlife (COM (1999) 706). As for procymidone, it was recognised as one of the substances with high exposure concern and with evidence of endocrine disrupting properties listed in the Commission working document on the implementation of the Community Strategy for Endocrine Disruptors (SEC (2004) 1372). Results from a recent study conducted in South Korea indicate that procymidone may even act as a stronger androgen receptor antagonist in male rats when compared to known endocrine disruptors such as vinclozolin, linuron, or p,p'-DDE (Kang et al., 2004).
PAN Europe asked ministers and representatives to reject the inclusion of these substances in the EU positive list and to demand extra studies for pesticides with scientific evidence in peer-reviewed literature for endocrine disruption and focus these studies on the early developmental stage of life, taking into account specific endpoints relevant for endocrine disruption like: learning capability, motility, behaviour, birth deformations, semen quality, etc., dependent on the kind of endocrine disruption of the pesticide under study.
2. Published news and information
Withdrawal of active ingredients in EU review
The EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) has voted for the withdrawal of the herbicide methabenzthiazuron. Essential uses were requested by Belgium and France.
Approval of active ingredients in EU review
The SCFCAH agreed on the inclusion of 2 new active ingredients: the insecticide/acaricide etoxazole and the graminicide tetraloxydim.
One existing substance was added to Annex 1: the insecticide/nematicide oxamyl (“Bad Actor” status for being acutely toxic and a cholinesterase inhibitor).
The SCFCAH also recognised complete dossiers for three new fungicides: potassium iodide, potassium thiocynate and ascorbic acid.
Danish Government allows for the first time the use of purified water by the local authorities
The Danish government is set to abandon its policy forbidding the use of purified groundwater for drinking, the environmental protection authority (EPA) announced on the 2nd of August 2005. Forthcoming legislation will, for the first time, allow local authorities to decide for themselves whether to use groundwater that has been treated to remove pesticide residues, rather than drilling new sites in the hope of finding an unpolluted source.
"Danish drinking water should in principle consist of unpolluted and unpurified groundwater", an EPA spokeswoman told journalists. However, pesticide levels in groundwater have been steadily increasing, with about a quarter of all new wells producing water contaminated with BAM residues (2, 6-dichlorobenzamide, a degradation product of the herbicide dichlobenil) . According to the UK's Local Government International Bureau (LGIB), over the past 15 years more than 700 waterworks in Denmark have closed down because of contaminated groundwater.
Exposure of females to oestrogen-disruptors reduces male fertility for several generations
A recent study suggests further evidence for the transgenerational actions of oestrogen-disruptors in rats’ male fertility. Four generations of male offspring from vinclozolin or methoxychlor treated mothers were examined, with reduction in sperm quality and quantity observed in all generations with comparable severity. In addition, 8% of the male offspring in each generation were completely infertile.
Pregnant rats were briefly exposed to the endocrine disruptor’s vinclozolin or methoxyclor during the time when the sex of embryos is being determined and testes developing. Sperm from the male offspring was examined and found to be significantly impaired. A reduction in sperm number and motility was also registered. This study shows that exposure to pesticides can cause a defect in sperm cells which can pass down through several generations through an apparent reprogramming of the male germ line. There has been controversy over whether environmental factors can alter reprogramming of the sperm cell DNA. Results in this paper clearly suggest this is possible. If confirmed, these findings could help explain the decline in human fertility which has been documented in several countries over the past 50 years.
Vinclozolin and methoxychlor are known to be endocrine disruptors. Vinclozolin is a fungicide used in a number of crops such as grapevines and strawberries. Methoxychlor is an organochlorine used on a range of crops. In this study exposure levels were higher than anticipated for human environmental exposure but clearly raise concerns. Vinclozolin is due to be re-approved for placement in the market in the framework of the European legislation on the placement of PPPs in the market.
Fungicide linked with neural tube defects
A new study from Norway found that the incidence of neural tube defects such as spina bifida or hydrocephalus in children of potato growers was 60% higher than in the rest of the population. The study, undertaken by researchers at the National Institute of Occupational Health in Oslo, indicated that there was an association between growers’ exposure to the fungicide mancozeb and neural tube defects in their children.
Mancozeb is a widely used fungicide, and it is particularly effective against potato late blight (dry rot). The fungicide is classified by PAN North America with “Bad Actor “ status for being a developmental or reproductive toxin, carcinogen and a suspected endocrine disruptor, and was recently re-approved for placing in the market in the EU Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health.
“We found a link between growing potatoes and having children with neural tube defects, but we are not certain that mancozeb or ETU (a metabolite of mancozeb) is the culprit. Our findings do support the hypothesis, but more research is needed to strengthen it further,” said Karl-Christian Nordby, the scientist in charge.
The study has been published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health. It prompted one national newspaper in Norway to call for a ban on mancozeb until further research is carried out into the safety of using this fungicide. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s science committee is to consider the case for a possible withdrawal of pesticides containing mancozeb later in the summer.
Accumulation of chlorpyrifos in human volunteers
Chlorpyrifos is a widely used organophosphorus insecticide and a plasma cholinesterase inhibitor. A large number of agricultural and other workers are exposed dermal and/or by inhalation to the substance every day. In this study chlorpyrifos was applied to the skin of six male volunteers, in different concentrations, during 4 hours, after which the non-absorbed fraction was washed off. Urine samples were taken at regular intervals up to 120 hours and concentrations of chlorpyrifos and its metabolite were measured. The results showed that a relatively large fraction was washed off from the exposed area (42-67%). It also showed that there were no significant differences between the two groups in the dose that had been absorbed. They also observed that chlorpyrifos was still left in the body after 120 hours, which suggests that chlorpyrifos and its metabolite were retained by the skin and/or accumulated in the body. These findings show that daily occupational exposure to chlorpyrifos may result in accumulation of chlorpyrifos and its metabolites, possibly resulting in adverse effects.
Glyphosate leaching threat to aquatic life
Glyphosate is sold as a benign pesticide harmless to animals, which breaks down rapidly and binds tightly to soil precluding the possibility of leaching into water sources. A new study now provides evidence that glyphosate and its breakdown product, AMPA, can leach from certain types of soils. The behavior of glyphosate/AMPA was observed in three types of soils: one sandy soil and two loamy. At the sandy soil site and at one loamy site with moderate rainfall, no leaching of glyphosate was observed and only minimal leaching of AMPA was observed in the loamy soil. However, on the second loamy site both glyphosate and AMPA leached from the root zone into tile drains (one meter below the soil surface) at average conditions exceeding 0.1 µg/litre, which is the EU threshold for drinking water. The leaching was related to macropores in the soil structure. AMPA was often detected 1.5 years after application, indicating limited degradation capacity within the soil.
Prague Declaration: a call to regulate gender-bending chemicals
The Prague Declaration, named after a meeting of more than 100 toxicologists and chemists in Czech Republic in May 2005, was launched in Brussels in June 2005. The declaration states that legislation on the safe use of chemicals does not go far enough and lack of complete scientific evidence of the harmful effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals must not delay political action. It has over a hundred signatories, including PAN Europe.
Endocrine disrupters are a diverse group of several thousands of chemicals - such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins - used in everything from pesticides to flame retardants, cosmetics to pharmaceuticals. Some of them alter the function of hormones in animals, either blocking their normal action or interfering with how they are made in the body. Since hormones regulate growth and body development, the potential for damage is clear. The link between these chemicals and detrimental effects in wildlife is well-established: pseudo-hermaphrodite polar bears with penis-like stumps, panthers with atrophied testicles and male trout with eggs growing in their testes have all been documented as the probable result of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment. Scientists have long suspected that the presence of these chemicals is also responsible for the high prevalence of fertility problems in European men, and for the rise in the number of breast and testicular cancers.
From the farm to the plate: pesticide trends in Spain
The growth of pesticide use in Spain has soared in the last few years. Unfortunately, indiscriminate use and lack of control and information have converted this into a threat for human health. In 2004, ISTAS (Instituto Sindical de Trabajo, Ambiente y Salud), the labour institute for environment and health under the trade union CCOO (Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras) from Andalucía organised a survey among the workers in green-houses in Andalucía (where 25% of all pesticides from Spain are used). According to the study, only 48% of the surveyed workers had received information about the risks involved in the handling of pesticides. The survey also highlighted the presence of pesticide and pesticide residues in the surroundings of the green-houses, namely in the water, air, soil, produce and plastic waste. 42% of the pesticides utilised in the green-houses were hormone disrupting chemicals and/or persistent and bioaccumulative. Almost 27% of the pesticides found and analysed by the scientific studies that were the basis of the study were not on the market or were in the process of being removed from the market by their harmful effects in the human health and the environment. In 2002, the System for Epidemiological Surveillance in Andalucía (Sistema de Vigilancia Epidemiológica de Andalucía) registered 118 cases of acute intoxications caused by pesticides, where 98 occurred within an occupational background.
In another study published by the Public Health Agency from Barcelona it was found that during 1998-2003 10% of all agricultural products analysed were contaminated by pesticide residues. In particular, 28% of the fruits; 20% of the cereals and 7% of vegetables were contaminated. Although they did not exceed Maximum Residue Levels, concerns were raised by the presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals like malathion, procymidone, dimethoate, fenitrothion, diazinon, imazalil and esfenvalerate.
Does chronic exposure to organophosphates cause depression and suicide?
Pesticide poisonings are usually divided into three main categories: occupational exposures, non-occupational accidental exposures (such as domestic accidents) and intentional exposures (suicide and attempted suicide). The World Health Organization (WTO) estimates that 1 million unintentional and 2 million intentional poisonings occur worldwide every year, of which 220,000 are fatal. Pesticide poisoning is a particularly serious problem in developing countries, especially among rural agricultural populations.
This review analyses studies of suicides among pesticide-exposed populations. It also examines human and animal studies of central nervous system toxicity related to organophosphate (OP) pesticides, one of the groups of pesticides associated with pesticide-related suicides. The association between suicide and exposure to pesticides, particularly OPs, is often interpreted as indicating that those working with pesticides have access to poisons in moments of acute distress so suicidal impulses are more likely to result in suicide. However, the authors evaluate the possibility that OP exposure could depress serotonin levels leading to depression, alteration in mood and psychiatric disorders. The authors conclude that OPs are not just agents for suicide but may also be the cause.
3. News from PAN Europe partners
New publication by PAN Germany: Guiding Lighthouses for Future Plant Protection Policy.
Pesticide issues have been in the public focus for over 40 years. In order to point the way in which plant protection policies should develop in the future, PAN Germany has set up 7 "guiding lighthouses". For PAN Germany, these "guiding lighthouses" represent indispensable guidelines and signposts, such as are needed in every field of politics in any intact democracy: coherency, transparency, participation, responsibility, precautionary principle, minimisation of risk and fairness.
The 1st IFOAM Conference on Organic Wild Production, May 3-4, 2006, Bosnia and Herzegovina
This conference, organized by IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), will focus on the harvesting of wild vegetable products from forest, “natural” lands, pastures and uncultivated land in the agriculture landscape. It will concentrate on current production that enters the organic market stream, but will also extend to other concepts, such as Fair Trade, sustainable forest management certification and Good Manufacturing Practices. Tours will be organised after the conference. They will show production and processing as well as the certification process.
Clean Air Action Group Hungary protests against the aerial spraying of dichlorvos in public areas
In the spring of 2005, Clean Air Action Group (Hungarian environmental NGO) protested to the competent ministries and the National Public Health and Medical Officer’s Service (ÁNTSZ) against the use of a specific pesticide and against the method of application of another chemical. This happened after a local newspaper informed Clean Air Action Group in Budapest that the National Public Health and Medical Officer’s Service was using for mosquito control a pesticide containing dichlorvos (UNITOX 100 SC). Dichlorvos (CASRN 62-73-7) is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA and possible human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). DDT has the same classification. Several investigations concluded that this substance may cause childhood leukaemia and brain tumour. In the US, its use was restricted on account of the leukaemia cases. Owing to its probable carcinogenic effect, this chemical was banned in Denmark, in Sweden and in Indonesia, and in 2002 also in UK.
From an environmental protection point of view, it is disquieting that in inhabited areas, in public parks and in the neighbourhood of private gardens (where pets and farm animals are kept) a substance with proven animal carcinogenic effect is being sprayed into the air. In Hungary, chemicals containing dichlorvos as their active ingredient (Unifosz 50ec) are permitted to be used for plant protection purposes with a required labour hygiene waiting period of three days. This means that for three days, humans without protective equipment and animals are not allowed to enter the agricultural area treated with the pesticide. The question may be asked: how is it possible that the same pesticide is being used on inhabited areas in the same dose and without any restrictions?
On repeated occasions, the National Public Health and Medical Officer’s Service referred to the fact that this substance is included in the WHO’s list of active ingredients that may be authorized to be used for mosquito control. However, this list also contains DDT (with the same carcinogenic classification), which has caused illness and death of hundreds of thousands of citizens and has been banned from use in Hungary since 1968. Clean Air Action Group also requested a revision of the so-called “warm fog” technology, i.e. when this compound is sprayed into the air with diesel oil. Considering that diesel oil is a Category I carcinogen, it is unacceptable that it is being sprayed into the air on inhabited areas.
The other product widely used in Hungary against mosquitoes is MOSQUITOX 1 ULV FORTE. The active ingredient of this pesticide, deltamethrin, belongs to the pyrethroid compound group. These compounds pose danger to fish, bees and aquatic organisms, and may also damage human health. Relevant regulations do not allow these compounds to be let into living waters. Pyrethroid compounds have been associated by many with the huge fish destruction occurrences in Lake Balaton in Hungary. Therefore, it is questionable whether the aerial spraying of this pesticide and the required five-metre protective distance from water courses can provide effective guarantees for the protection of the environment. Clean Air Action Group proposes a revision of all the permits for aerial spraying in Hungary.
Environmentalists in Belarus call for joint efforts to solve pesticide disposal problems
The call was directed to the ministers of environment of Belarus and Latvia and was released 4th of August by the organizers of the international environmental camp “Clean Dvina – Clean Baltic-2005”. Authors of the appeal call for creation of a working group at the national level to solve problems of the pesticide disposal site near Verhnedvinsk town on the river Western Dvina. Work of the group should result in action plan for urgent rehabilitation of the disposal site.
“We, representatives of the NGOs from Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine, Russia and Greece together with citizens of Verhnedvinsk town express our strong concerns about the situation that exists nowadays around Verhnedvinsk pesticide disposal site”, – states the appeal signed by more than 20 participants of the camp “Clean Dvina – Clean Baltic 2005”. On July 30 2005 camp participants undertook an expedition to the disposal site surroundings. More than 450 tons of dangerous chemicals – pesticides are buried on the overall territory of 5,000 sq. meters. The site was created in 1982 with no drainage system associated. In addition, several water streams flow near the site. So far, according to the opinion of the camp participants, the direct way for pesticide migration to local rivers Sarjanka and Turja exist. Downstream, these rivers fall into Western Dvina River, then into the Baltic Sea.
The International environmental camp was organized on July 29th-August 4th near the town Polotsk (Belarus), several kilometers from river Western Dvina (Daugava on the Latvian territory) that flows into the Baltic Sea. Participants called authorities to solve problems of the pesticide disposal urgently, underlining the threats that this site poses to the ecosystems of Western Dvina and the Baltic Sea.
Camp “Clean Dvina – Clean Baltic 2005” was organized by Belarusian environmental group and PAN Europe partner “Foundation for the Realization of Ideas”, international environmental group Ecodefense! and Latvian Green Movement and supported by Coalition Clean Baltic.
“Know-what-you-eat” campaign harvested encouraging results in The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, the "Know-what-you-eat" campaign is run by Stichting Natuur en Milieu (Society for Nature and Environment, SNM) for three years now. The campaign consists in the public disclosure of the results of analysis made to fresh fruits and vegetables from main supermarket chains in the Netherlands. In the first years supermarkets were completely surprised with the results because they were not aware of problems regarding pesticides residues in products. Residues were not analysed by the supermarkets and enforcing by the government was minimal. Exceedances of the Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) were very high, up to 75% of all samples in grapes, but also high in citrus, strawberries and lettuce. Supermarkets did not react until SNM threatened them to go to Court. Only when the court cases were widely announced in the newspapers the supermarket managers queued before SNM’s office door, asking for an agreement. SNM got an agreement will all major supermarkets and finally even with the German discounters Aldi en Lidl which are widely regarded as 'deaf' for any social responsibility. The discounters were also the first having 'cleaned' their products by punishing their suppliers very hard in case of MRL exceedances.
Although having promised to 'clean' their fresh products, the supermarkets and their branch organisation started at the same time a big publicity campaign against the alarmism of SNM and other NGOs. Agriculture Ministry, farmers and the national food authority joined forces to tell consumers there is no risk with pesticide residues in food and dismissing the claims of NGO's. At the European level, traders and supermarkets started a powerful lobby campaign to harmonise residue standards. Against such powerful groups it’s crucial for NGO's to maintain the campaign in the next years, keeping pressure high by disclosing the results of the analysis.
SNM has published the 9th round of sampling and concluded that the residue exceedances are now more or less under control. Strawberries (analysed in June) and now lettuce (August) didn't show any exceedances to the MRLs. Nevertheless, detectable levels of residues under the MRLs are still present in many samples. A lot of progress has been made by a combination of pressure and negotiating. Given the powerful multinationals involved, NGOs have reasons to be satisfied with the results.
This PAN Europe Newsletter was compiled by Sofia Parente.
Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members, PURE supporters and individuals.