April - May 2006
1. PAN Europe activities
Advance notice of PAN Europe Annual Conference 2006
In collaboration with SANA, Legambiente and the Italian Organic Farming Association (AIAB) we will be holding our Network Annual Conference for members and other supporters 7-9 September in Bologna, Italy. The conference will be held at the same time and site as SANA, one the largest organic fairs in the world and it will also be an excellent opportunity to visit this fair. The central theme for this years’ conference is Integrated Crop Management/Integrated Pest Management and alternatives for the reduction of pesticide use from the point of view of producers, retailers and consumers, with a special emphasis in Italian/regional examples. We will also hold our Network Annual General Meeting on the 8th September and an optional field trip on the 9 September.
Pesticide Use Reduction working group meeting
We will be holding our next Pesticide Use Reduction working group meeting 19-20 June in Brussels. The first day will be dedicated to a workshop with external speakers presenting and debating the new EU Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. The second day is reserved for NGO participants and will be dedicated to strategy and planning for the months ahead.
Phase-out of Critical Uses of Methyl Bromide
The European Commission has finalised the “European Community Management Strategy for the Phase-Out of Critical Uses of Methyl Bromide”, a requirement from the Montreal Protocol. PAN Europe asked the Commission to be involved as a stakeholder in this process and has been advocating for stricter measures to reduce critical uses of methyl bromide and the promotion of non-chemical alternatives and Integrated Pest Management. The EC Strategy is a good background document with abundant information on existing methyl bromide uses and the progress of phase-out in EU but fails in presenting concrete measures to completely phase-out alternatives in the most critical countries (Italy, Spain, Greece, France and UK). It also fails in promoting non-chemical alternatives in a moment where many of the chemical substitutes for methyl bromide in use have serious health and environmental hazards and might not be registered under a more strict pesticides Regulation. There is no single substance or technique that can act as a substitute for methyl bromide and Integrated Pest Management should be the first approach in crop protection.
The Strategy is a living document that will be updated regularly. The next revision is due before the end of the year and PAN Europe will continue to advocate for these measures.
New Pesticide Use Reduction in Europe campaign coordinator
Grazia Cioci was appointed the new PURE- Pesticide Use Reduction in Europe campaign coordinator. She will be working in Brussels based in the EEB- European Environmental Bureau office. Her contact details are:
C/o European Environmental Bureau (EEB)
34 Bd. de Waterloo
Tel: +32 (0)2 790 8819 (direct)/+32 (0)2 289 1090/Fax: +32 (0)2 289 1099
2. Published news and information
Approval of active ingredients in EU review
The EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) has approved one new active ingredient: the fungicide dimoxystrobin. The SCFCAH also voted for the inclusion of eight existing active ingredients to Annex I: the plant growth regulator trinexapac, the herbicides clopyralid (acute toxic, potential groundwater contaminant), triclopyr and dichlorprop-p (acute toxic, possible carcinogen, possible groundwater contaminant), the fungicides cyropanidil, fosetyl aluminium (acute toxic, potential groundwater contaminant), metconazole and pyrimethanil.
Six substances were excluded from Annex I and will be removed from the EU market: the herbicides dimethenamid and alachlor (carcinogen, groundwater contaminant, developmental or reproductive toxin and suspected endocrine disruptor) and ammonium sulfamate, and the fungicides hexaconazole, sodium tetrathiocarbonate (STTC) (whose breakdown product acts as developmental or reproductive toxin) and 8-hydroxyquinoline.
How organic farming is creating more jobs and revitalising rural economies in the UK
Results from the most comprehensive survey comparing employment on organic farms with that on non-organic farms shows that organic farming is delivering 32% more jobs per farm on average across the UK. The research was carried out by the Centre for Environment & Society at Essex University and published by the Soil Association and also discovered that the average age of organic farmers surveyed was 49, seven years younger than their non-organic counterparts, who average 56 years old. Organic farmers are also more optimistic about the future of farming, with 64% expecting their family to take on the farm compared to 51% for non-organic farmers. Organic farmers seem to be more entrepreneurial, with three times as many organic farms involved in direct or local marketing schemes compared to non-organic farmers.
Pesticide Mixtures, Endocrine Disruption, and Amphibian Declines: Are We Underestimating the Impact?
Amphibian populations are declining globally at an alarming rate. Pesticides are among a number of proposed causes for these declines. Although a sizable database examining effects of pesticides on amphibians exists, the vast majority of these studies focus on toxicological effects at relatively high doses. Few studies focus on effects such as endocrine disruption at low concentrations. Further, most studies focus examine exposures to a single substance. The present study examined nine pesticides (four herbicides, two fungicides and three insecticides) used on cornfields in the Midwest United States. Effects of each pesticide or in combination in amphibian populations were studied. Although some of the pesticides individually inhibited larval growth and development, the pesticides mixtures had much greater effects. Larval growth and development were retarded, but most significantly, pesticide mixtures negated or reversed the typically positive correlation between time to metamorphosis and size at metamorphosis observed in controls.
This study revealed that that estimating ecological risk and the impacts of pesticides on amphibians using studies that examine only single pesticides at high concentrations may lead to gross underestimations of the role of pesticides in amphibian declines.
Poor groundwater quality in Northern Italy due to herbicide contamination
Herbicide groundwater pollution is a serious environmental problem in Northern Italy. Data on herbicide pollution in groundwater are rather scarce; monitoring data are based on single investigation, focussing on limited area and on few compounds of interest. The large number of approved active ingredients (approximately 600 chemicals) makes it difficult to obtain accurate and actual information on herbicide application in different countries, even if herbicides are the second most important class of pesticides used in the European Union. The results of a two-year monitoring campaign undertaken in two areas intensively cultivated in Lombardy, Northern Italy, showed a diffuse groundwater contamination due to active ingredients and their metabolites. More than 50% of samples exceeded the threshold limits and the most common substances were atrazine, terbuthylazine and metolachlor, while DEA and DET metabolites were often characterised by greater concentrations than their relative active principles.
High levels of organochlorine pesticides found in serum from students in Portugal
In 1997, 1999, 2000, and 2001, in an attempt to evaluate the contamination level of a Portuguese population, organochlorine pesticide residues were evaluated in human serum from students of the University of Coimbra. Concentrations of selected organochlorine pollutants (alpha-, beta-, and gamma-HCH, aldrin, dieldrin, HE, HCB, p,p'-DDT, o,p'-DDT, p,p'-DDE, p,p'-DDD) and endosulfan sulfate were measured with the objective to point out the general levels of pesticide contamination and the differences between gender and or the residence area of the subjects. Endosulfan sulfate, p,p'-DDE, o,p'-DDT, and p,p'-DDD were the most frequently identified residues. Endosulfan sulfate present the highest concentrations for all subjects, with concentrations ranging from undetected to 1,295.5mug/l. Between DDT, isomers, and analogues, o,p'-DDT, and p,p'-DDT presented the highest levels, 24.8 and 21.9mug/l, respectively. The mean concentration of organochlorine pesticide residues, present in the student populations, showed that it is among the highest levels of contamination, when compared with others from Europe, Asia, and America.
Domestic use of biocides in the UK
Several epidemiological studies, particularly from the United States, have suggested health concerns may arise from the chronic exposure of young children to pesticides in their home environment. Most of these studies are retrospective and the available pesticide exposure information is either subject to the problem of recall or derived from surrogate information. Currently, little is known about the extent of pesticide use in homes and gardens in the UK. This was investigated in this study using a sample of parents from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) cohort in and around Bristol. The level and extent of pesticide use by parents was explored through interviews that took place at the homes of the participants during August to November 2001, followed by an inventory of products stored in the home. From the results, 93% of parents had used at least one pesticide over the preceding year with the highest use being in the garden, second inside the home, followed by treating pets and head lice. Most households reported using one to five different products over the past year, with a mean of 3.5. The frequency of pesticide use showed that a minority of parents is using pesticides in the high frequency range. Over 85 different pesticide products were found to be stored in 76% of homes, with 76 different types of pesticide active ingredients. Insecticides were the most commonly used and stored type of pesticide.
Resource guide on acutely toxic pesticides
The IFCS- International Forum on Chemical Safety has published a web based resource guide entitled “Acutely Toxic Pesticides- a global guide to resources”. It is intended to provide information and guidance for implementation of the Forum IV Recommendation which recognized that poisoning of pesticide users and their communities, especially agricultural workers and small farmers in developing countries must be prevented. National governments should also provide with guidance for sound risk management and reduction actions, in particular those related to acutely toxic pesticides.
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Registration of methyl bromide substitute withdrawn in the US
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn its plan to approve methyl iodide, a highly toxic fumigant for strawberries and other high-value crops after California officials, labour unions, environmentalists and others objected that nearby residents and farm workers could be in danger. The new pesticide is designed to replace methyl bromide, which is banned under the Montreal Protocol.
Methyl iodide evaporates from the soil, exposing farm workers during application, and small amounts can drift off fields into nearby communities. In animal tests, breathing large doses of methyl iodide killed foetuses, caused thyroid tumours, damaged respiratory tracts and altered thyroid hormones, which can disrupt the development of infants' brains. Scientists at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation raised numerous health concerns about methyl iodide, which the state has declared a cancer-causing chemical. The substance will be reviewed again next year, and even if the EPA does register it, it cannot be used in California unless the state agency approves it.
Methyl iodide is not yet for approval in Europe but Spain, for example, is conducting experiments with the substance to evaluate its suitability as a substitute for methyl bromide.
Agrochemical companies battle for Polish market share
Poland is a desirable market for multinational agrochemical companies and since joining the EU companies have invested massively in promotional campaigns in the country. Overseas companies are now investing three times as much in promotion compared to domestic companies. But although large companies like BASF and Bayer CropScience are increasingly recognized by farmers, their market share is still comparatively small compared to domestic companies. Polish farmers still favour product brands from domestic companies, not only for the price but also familiarity with polish products that have been on the market for a number of years.
Suicide, suicide attempts and pesticides: a major hidden public health problem
With nearly 900,000 deaths from suicide every year worldwide, suicide takes more lives than homicides and wars combined. Added to these deaths are the many non-fatal suicide attempts. In the absence of national registries or reliable hospital-based systems for recording suicide attempts, a large-scale study was conducted by the WHO Regional Office for Europe to estimate the number of suicide attempts in several European cities. The findings were compared with corresponding national rates for completed suicides, and showed suicide attempt rates to be 10–40 times higher than rates for completed suicides.
Perhaps even less well understood is the specific link between suicide and pesticides, which is significant in rural areas generally and in Asian countries in particular. It is estimated that in the last 10 years between 60–90% of suicides in China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Trinidad and Tobago were by pesticide ingestion. More recently, WHO has received reports of a growing number of suicides due to pesticide ingestion in many other Asian countries and in Central and South American countries (e.g. Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Nicaragua and Paraguay). This may well mean that the global number of suicide deaths is considerably higher than currently estimated, and clearly makes pesticide ingestion the most common method of suicide on a worldwide basis.
New FAO Guidelines on Compliance and Enforcement of a Pesticide Regulatory Programme
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) Guidelines encourage responsible trade practices and assist countries in establishing controls to regulate the quality and suitability of pesticide products and to address the safe handling and use of such products. The guidelines include such topics as: registration and control of pesticides; legislation; personal protection for those working with pesticides; good labelling practices; pesticide storage and stock control; tender procedures for the procurement of pesticides; etc. These documents are frequently the basis for the development of policies and practices in countries looking to initiate or improve a pesticide management scheme.
This publication on compliance and enforcement contains theoretical examples of various problems faced by governments at different levels of 'development', and how they might deal with various problems. It encourages enforcement and monitoring of implementation of pesticide regulatory systems. It has two useful annexes, one dealing with legal tools and instruments and a second with developing enforcement capacity focusing on institutional back up.
Many of the 30 or more Guidelines that underpin the FAO International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides need updating. The links to new guidelines, state of revisions, and priorities for update will soon be available on: http://www.fao.org/ag/AGP/AGPP/Pesticid/code/guide.htm
3. News from PAN Europe partners
Legambiente launches “Pesticides in the plate 2006 Report”
Every year Legambiente publishes a report entitled “Pesticides in the Plate” analysing the levels of pesticides residues in fresh fruits and vegetables in Italy. In 2006, and in comparison with previous years, the number of samples exceeding the maximum residue levels decreased and the number of samples without residues increased. The underlying problem continues to be the high number of samples with multiple residues (up to seven different pesticides residues) and the unknown effects of low levels/multiple residues of pesticides in food, especially for sensitive groups such as children. Residues of banned pesticides were found, including one sample of fruit with DDT residues in Lombardy.
In a press conference in the headquarters of Legambiente in Roma, Francesco Ferrante (Director General of Legambiente), Rina Guadagnini (Scientific Coordinator of the Agriculture Programme of Legambiente) and Sofia Parente (PAN Europe Coordinator) called for a national programme to reduce pesticide use and for the development of methodologies to address low levels of multiple pesticide residues and the effects on vulnerable groups such as children.
New French campaigns alert to the dangers of pesticide residues in food
France is the third country in terms of pesticide use volume in the world and the first in Europe. Two French environmental organisations, the Federation France Nature Environment (FNE) and the Movement for the Rights and the Respect of Future Generations (MDRGF) launched simultaneous information campaigns about the presence of pesticides in food. Both organisations chose an apple as the symbol for their campaign after they estimated the fruit received an average of 27 treatments of pesticides before reaching the supermarket shelf.
MDRGF insists this type of contamination is the entry door of a cocktail of substances, many of them with carcinogenic, endocrine disruptor and neurotoxic properties. MDRGF is also launching a petition for zero pesticides residues in food while FNE launches a petition asking for an independent report studying the dispersion of pesticides in the environment and a tax on pesticides in France.
PAN Germany briefing on maximum residue levels
Since March 2005, the regulation on the harmonization of pesticide residue levels in food requires special protection of children and the unborn. However, a recent PAN Germany briefing entitled “The Myth of Safe Fruit and Vegetables”, reveals a number of open questions and clearly shows that actually many maximum residue levels put children at risk. PAN Germany calculated 60 unsafe maximum residue levels in 13 major commodities such as apples, pears, grapes and strawberries.
The briefing paper aims to raise awareness within civil society of the fact that the current process of EU harmonization of pesticide levels in food presents a big chance to lower chemicals risks. PAN Germany calls upon the responsible authorities to protect children and the unborn, to set priority of public health over international standards mostly serving free trade and to inform the public about the ongoing harmonization process.
The Paris Appeal celebrates its second anniversary
The Paris Appeal was proclaimed two years ago on May 7 2004, during the international colloquium organized by ARTAC, on the theme « Cancer, Environment and Society ». The idea for the Paris Appeal arose from the determination to mobilize much more firmly and broadly the medical profession, scientists, academic authorities, as well as NGOs and citizens, to appreciate the health repercussions of chemical pollution. Beyond the undeniable fact of contemporary diseases and exposure to chemical pollutants, the target was to prompt authorities to act and legislate to protect people, in particular the most vulnerable.
As next steps, ARTAC will continue to circulate the Appeal in order to obtain one million signatures and will continue to unite scientists and NGOs, but also all the entities that feel concerned by health and environmental issues. Finally, it will create a Paris Appeal support committee open to NGOs and scientists who wish to join and organise the second European congress of the Paris Appeal, on the theme «Health, environment and sustainable development». It will take place on November 9, 2006, at UNESCO, Paris.
Greenpeace Germany unveils record highs for pesticides residues in EU fruit and vegetables
Unpublished EU Commission data shows that contamination by pesticides residues in food of plant origin consumed in the European Union rose to record levels in 2004. 47 per cent of fruit and vegetable samples were contaminated by pesticides – three per cent more than in 2003. The Commission's monitoring programme records pesticide residues in over 60,000 food samples taken throughout the EU. In a press release launched on the 1st of June, Greenpeace called on the German government to make a plan for immediate measures to bring down pesticide residues in food. Consumers must be informed about contaminated food without delay through the consumer information law planned, and food controls by the federal states be tightened.
A pesticide use reduction programme agreed by the German government and states committed them back in 2004 to bring down the percentage of food of plant origin in which legal limits were exceeded to less than one per cent – from the eight per cent at present in Germany. But so far not even a plan of action for achieving this goal has been made. Greenpeace advises consumers to buy organic produce since this is as a rule free from pesticides. The German organisation's consumer guides on food without pesticide and pesticides from supermarkets can be ordered from Greenpeace by calling +49 40 30618 120 (Guides are in German only).
This PAN Europe Newsletter was compiled by Sofia Parente
Contributions are welcome from PAN Europe network members, PURE supporters and individuals.