(Beyond Pesticides, May 21, 2008) Top European Union (EU) official, Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, called on European governments to adopt tougher guidelines on pesticides and to ban the use of all potentially dangerous pesticides that can cause cancer, reproductive effects and hormone disruption.The Health Commissioner urged agriculture ministers of member states not to ”˜water down’ recommendations in the two-year-old draft plan to introduce tougher guidelines on the use of pesticides. The plan, which needs approval by EU governments and the European Parliament, aims to tighten rules for authorizing new pesticides that come on to the EU market. It would also include mandatory recordkeeping by farmers, restrict the use of crop-dusters, force pesticide makers to reduce animal testing of their products, and stop the use of pesticides in sensitive areas near nature reserves and parks.
“The key aim of the proposal is to protect the health of citizens and the environment, we must not lose sight of this,” Mr. Vassiliou told the ministers. Commissioner Vassiliou also stressed that pesticides that are toxic to reproductive systems, that disrupt hormones and those that cause cancer, should no longer be used to spray crops because of the risks to human and environmental health.
Statistics from the European Commission show that 300,000 tons of pesticides were sold in Europe in 2003 without any reduction over the past decade. Pesticide contamination of rivers, streams and waterbeds used as sources of drinking water is highlighted as an acute problem for Europe.
Implementation of the plan, which would update older pesticide legislation, has been held up in member states such as Ireland, Hungary and France which remain opposed to the plan fearing they either go too far or not far enough. German Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer said that he would support a ban only if it would lead to a compromise deal. Germany and others have said that the existing limits on pesticide use are sufficient.
Even though many are dissatisfied, the European Parliament last fall voted in favor of tighter legislation to be enacted by 2013. (See Daily News of October 29, 2007.) However, member states would be given the discretion as to how the plan would be implemented in their countries.
The chemical industry has also been lobbying governments and law makers claiming that the new rules could reduce farm yields at a time when global food shortages and high prices could reduce the competitiveness of Europe’s high tech sector.
The European Commission says the new rules are long overdue and that new guidelines would spur research into alternative methods. Commissioner Vassiliou said that these new measures must include incentives for the development and use of safer alternatives to be used by farmers at a reasonable cost.
Source: Associated Press