(Beyond Pesticides, June 28, 2007) This week the European Commission’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety voted on elements of a proposed framework that fills in regulatory gaps on pesticides, and adopts stricter rules than originally proposed, including a ban on aerial spraying.
European Union’s existing legislation on pesticides only deal with two stages of the life cycle of pesticide products: the “placing on the market” stage and the “end of life-cycle” stage. To deal with the period in between – when pesticides are actually being used – the Commission, in July 2006, put forward a report, Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. The first piece of legislation generated by the strategy is a draft framework directive on the sustainable use of pesticides, on which the Environment Committee voted.
Measures proposed in the strategy report include:
- National action plans by Member States to identify the crops, activities or areas most at risk from pesticides, together with targets for tackling the problems;
- Training for professional users of pesticides and awareness-raising for the public;
- Rules on inspections of pesticide equipment and on the handling and storage of pesticides;
- Special measures to protect water from pesticide pollution;
- Special measures to identify areas where zero or very little pesticide use is to be allowed;
- A ban on aerial spraying with pesticides, albeit with derogations.
There was a proposal to replace the Commission’s ban on aerial spraying with a requirement for Member States simply to “regulate” such spraying. However, this was rejected by the Committee, which instead opted to endorse the ban, with some modifications.
The Committee sought to scale down not just the “risks” of pesticides as the Commission proposes, but the very “use” of these products. The report also insists that the directive should apply not only to agricultural contexts but also to non-agricultural ones.
The Committee backs the idea of national action plans (NAPs) but insists they include a specific EU reduction target of 25% within five years, and 50% within 10 years, as well as national targets for particularly active or toxic substances. The report also calls for Member States to set up a system of taxes or levies on pesticides to fund the NAPs.
The Committee backs the Commission’s plans to require training for pesticide users and distributors but lay down more stringent, detailed rules on this point, as they also do for the clauses on awareness and information programs for pesticide users.
To protect water courses, the Commission proposed 10 meter wide “buffer zones” where pesticides may not be used or stored. They also voted to ban pesticides in all areas used by the general public (e.g. parks, school grounds, residential areas) and in “substantial no-spray zones” around them.
The draft report, as amended, was adopted by 34 votes to 11, with five abstentions.