EU nations agree on stricter pesticide use rules
24 June 2008
BRUSSELS – European Union agriculture ministers on Monday agreed on draft proposals to tighten the use of pesticides across Europe, banning those that cause cancer or pose unnecessary health risks to humans.
The agreement came after two years of negotiations among EU nations and with lawmakers at the European Parliament, and Monday’s compromise deal still needs the final backing of the EU assembly. The EU parliament could amend the deal, and many lawmakers have called for EU rules on pesticides to be even tougher than the compromise reached Monday.
The new rules would force farmers and chemicals makers to replace hazardous plant protection products with safer ones and do away with granting provisional user licences to pesticides that are still being submitted to a new EU pesticides register.
“One of the main aims of the proposal is to maintain a high level of protection for humans, animals and the environment. This is essential for our citizens,” said EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou. “We will not authorise what is known to be harmful for public health.”
She said pesticides that can cause cancer, are toxic to reproductive systems, or disrupt hormones will no longer be used to spray crops.
The bill seeks to tighten and simplify the rules for authorising new pesticides on the EU market and aims to force pesticide makers to reduce animal testing of their products.
It also calls for the banning of pesticides in specific sensitive areas, such as near nature reserves or parks, and restricts the use of crop-dusters.
However, British Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said his government could not support the bill, saying not enough studies have been done regarding what farmers will replace banned pesticides with.
“We remain concerned that we have seen no proper assessment of the potential impact of these proposals on agriculture … or of their benefits for consumers, and we cannot support measures that would have significant adverse impacts on crop protection,” Benn said.
The chemicals industry has lobbied governments and EU lawmakers hard to reject the bill, arguing that imposing the new rules could reduce farm yields at a time of global food shortages and high commodity prices, and reduce the competitiveness of Europe’s high-tech sector.
The European Commission says the new rules are overdue to replace outdated regulations on pesticides and spur research into alternative methods of pest control.
It says continued pesticide use damages water, air and soil, and could cause long-term health problems for humans, animals and plants.
[AP / Flickr contributor Stefanie says / Expatica]