Daily News Archive
From November 8, 2006
Pesticides Threaten Europe’s Food Supplies
(Beyond Pesticides, November 8, 2006) The sale of counterfeit pesticides is threatening the safety of Europe’s food supply. According to the European Crop Protection Authority (EPCA), as many as one in 20 pesticides sold in the European Union may be fake and could harm human health.
According to Britain’s The Times, criminals, mainly in India and China, are smuggling counterfeit insecticides, fungicides and herbicides into the European Union to cash in on its agri-chemical market, which is worth five billion pounds a year. It is thought that about three percent of pesticides used in the UK are fake and that in Europe it could be as high as seven percent. EPCA reported that the illegal trade costs 20 million pounds (38 million dollars) a year in lost taxes.
England’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is preparing to prosecute two unnamed firms over the supply of illegal pesticides, and enforcement agencies have been urged to monitor the problem more closely after the industry alerted the European Commission to the potential threat to human health.
The November 6, 2006, edition of Chemistry & Industry, the magazine of the Society of Chemical Industry, reports that alarm was raised after a herbicide used on wheat in Italy was found to contain the potentially dangerous insecticide methidathion.
In Italy, Spain and France, hundreds of hectares of maize, potatoes and tomatoes have been damaged by a fake herbicide and in 2002, a survey of produce in supermarkets in the UK found traces of eight potentially dangerous compounds.
In response, the Pesticides Safety Directorate has told farmers to avoid cheap deals and to buy chemicals from reputable sources. It has also increased spot checks on sales of pesticides.
The problem has been exacerbated by companies attempting to sell products in the UK without a legal patent. At a British Crop Protection conference in Glasgow last month, 24 companies — 23 Chinese and one Indian — were given legal warnings and three were ordered to cease commercial activity, after illegally promoting products.
The influx of illegal pesticides may be a backlash related to the European Commission’s removal of hundreds of pesticides from the market through its new harmonization standards. In 1991, the European Union (EU) adopted Directive 91/414, which establishes a harmonized authorization system for the review of active ingredients used in agricultural pesticides throughout member nations. The Directive requires pesticide product manufacturers to submit toxicity data and for those products to pass safety evaluations. At the time of the Directive’s adoption, there were over 850 such substances authorized for use in the member states.
The EU Directive established review criteria and a list of active substances (Annex 1) that have been shown to be without unacceptable risk to people or the environment. EU member states can only authorize, with exceptions, the marketing and use of products formulated with Annex 1 substances.
As of April 2006, the European Union Progress Report indicates that 462 active substances will be removed from the market by 2008 due to concern over adverse health and ecological impacts.
Sources: The Times, European Commission