Proposed EU pesticides approvals reform could hinder the fight against malaria in Africa, according to a leading malaria campaign group.

The proposals ignore the risks of not using insecticides to protect crops and human health. In most developing countries, agricultural pests and disease-spreading insects pose a far greater and more immediate threat to human health than insecticides, the Africa Fighting Malaria group says.

Its director, Richard Tren explained at an International Policy Network seminar in London how insecticides are used to help control insects carrying the disease. In particular they are used to spray indoor walls and to impregnate nets under which people sleep.

“We think the proposed regulation will do a lot of damage.”

Concern

He highlighted three main areas of concern. First, the public health market for insecticides is tiny in comparison to agriculture and he feared, were a ban imposed on the use of insecticides in their main market, manufacturers would not continue to produce products. “Even if they don’t disappear completely, based on our previous experience with DDT, the price will rise and they will become harder to get hold of.”

The second concern was that the EU has practically zero tolerance of residues of deregistered pesticides and revisions to the maximum residue limits in line with the new regulations will affect insecticide use for public health reasons in countries exporting to the EU.

For example, in Uganda farmers had won a high court injunction to prevent DDT use in a region with severe malarial problems because of a concern residues would be found on produce as a result, Mr Tren said. “As other MRLs change it will affect other insecticides used and lead to fears over exports and a complete stasis of malarial control.”

Impact

He said the legislation would also have a severe impact on on-going research into new chemistry. “There is already growing resistance to pyrethroids and some resistance to carbamates and DDT. We need new chemicals but under the regulatory system Europe proposes it is not clear to me how we develop new chemicals,” he said.

Virtually all the chemicals used in public health come from agriculture, he pointed out. “It is not only affecting the current stock, but also the pipeline. It is why we think the route Europe has taken affects not only its farmers and citizens but also citizens far away from its borders.”

Over 160 leading scientists from around the world have signed the organisation’s petition, which demands the EU measures the impact of the legislation and revises the proposals.