(Beyond Pesticides, August 27, 2008) Citing the possibility of lower crop yields and higher food prices, government ministers in the United Kingdom are planning to step up pressure on the European Parliament in opposition to plans to ban the most hazardous pesticides, amounting to three quarters of the pesticides used by farmers in the European Union. Environmental campaigners, like the UK Pesticides Campaign, are adamant that a crackdown on the use of pesticides is needed to protect public health and believe that the new measures must not be watered down by industry lobbying.
Officials from the U.K. Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) believe that the ban would remove important pesticides from the market. Those arguing against the proposal say it could prevent the use of certain fungicides and result in substantially lower wheat yields, postulating a 30 percent reduction from current levels. DEFRA officials claim that the ban would have “significant adverse impact on crop protection, but secure no significant health benefits for consumers.”
British Farming Minister Lord Rooker is adamant that fungicides should not be banned before alternatives are approved and is urging other European countries to block the measure. The controversy centers on the types of chemicals to be removed, including substances with endocrine disrupting properties that could cause adverse effect in humans. Advocates for a reversal of the planned ban argue that the public is already exposed to such substances through prescribed drugs, meat, peas and beans and products like soya milk.
DEFRA ministers insist that withdrawing these pesticides is likely to cause “significant agronomic and economic damage” but not lead to any significant loss in overall consumer exposures to endocrine disruptors.
Last fall, the European Parliament voted in favor of tighter legislation to be enacted by 2013. However, member states are to be given the discretion as to how the plan would be implemented in their countries. In May, the European Union Health Commissioner 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. Then, the 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.
It is expected that in the fall the plan will be formally adopted as the common position of the European Council and passed to the European Parliament for the second reading.
Source: Western Morning News UK