EU Agriculture

EU parliament pushes for ban on toxic chemicals

MEPs voted to back a text on Tuesday that will tighten the rules on the use of pesticides across Europe and ban the sale of 22 toxic substances.


Members of the European Parliament drafted a law on Tuesday that will pave the way for an EU-wide ban of the most dangerous pesticides used in herbicides, fungicides and insecticides.


Permits for 22 substances known to cause cancer, harm human reproduction or damage the hormonal system will not be renewed, according to the new text. Exceptions will be made only for cases where there is no alternative product, or where the harvest is seriously threatened as a result of the ban.


Most of the pesticides concerned are produced by German chemical industry giants Bayer or BASF, and include Amitrol, Ioxynil, Tepraloxydim, Epoxiconazole, Iprodion, Metconazole, Tebuconazole and Thiacloprid.


Two of the fungicides – Carbendazim and Dinocap – will be banned already in 2009, but permits for other harmful substances will only run out in 2018.


“It’s a victory for the Greens and for the environmentalists,” said Monica Frassoni, Vice President of the European Green Party. The text has been heralded by ecologists as one of the most restrictive legislative documents in the world on the subject of pesticides.


Tighter rules will be applied as of 2009 in the 27 EU member states. The drafted text was agreed on just as an EU law was passed banning the common practice of crop-dusting – an aerial application of pesticides. Exemptions to this law, which takes account of the high risk of spray drift to populated areas or sensitive ecological zones, are to be examined case by case.


The use of pesticides will also be banned in parks, public gardens, sports grounds and playgrounds.


Now the European Commission is going one step further in setting up studies to evaluate the impact of pesticides on the mortality rate of bees, which stands at 30 per cent in the EU.


The MEP vote means that there will be a mutual recognition of pesticide products between the EU’s three zones (north, south and centre), making authorisation procedures easier.


While the procedure leaves it fairly open to individual countries to determine how much they restrict their usage of authorised pesticides, « it will make it even more difficult than it is already for a country to refuse a given product » regrets Elliot Cannell, spokesman for the NGO Pesticide Action Network.


The vote is nevertheless "excellent for consumers who are worried that about the 50 per cent of food products currently sold in the EU that contain pesticides," says Cannell.


The environmental organisation Greenpeace deplored the relatively small number of products affected by the ban. It had hoped for at least 100 to be banned.


The text has been criticised by manufacturers. IVA, an organisation regrouping German manufacturers of pesticide products, said that "there is nothing to lose in doing a scientific study to evaluate the impact of their usage and risks."


"Products that are important for farmers are going to disappear in the end," said IVA’s president, Volker Koch-Achelpöhler.


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