Proposed pesticides legislation moves a step closer today [5 November], when MEPs on the environment committee of the European Parliament votes on its recommendations for the future of pesticides approvals.

The committee’s rapporteur for the legislation, Hiltrud Breyer, has produced a report detailing a number of amendments to the common position between the European Commission and farm council ministers agreed in the summer after the first reading.

Chief among these amendments are proposals that will significantly increase the number of existing products that may be removed from market once the legislation has taken affect.

These include:

  • A proposal that active substances will only be approved if they are not considered to be toxic to bees
  • The addition of products that cause a risk of developmental neurotoxic or immunotoxic effects in humans to the list of cut-off criteria
  • Deletion of the derogation inserted by the farm council that would allow active substances to be approved even if they meet designated cut-off criteria if there were no other alternatives available
  • A proposal to not approve products if they are suspected to cause endocrine disruptive effects

Among the products put at risk of being withdrawn by these amendments include many insecticides (bees) and triazole fungicides (endocrine disruption).

Other amendments that the food chain will be keenly monitoring for environment committee approval include Ms Breyer’s acceptance of the common position requiring products to fail all three indicators of what constitutes a persistent organic pollutant (POP) rather than just one as voted for by MEPs in the first reading.

Ms Breyer has also now made it clear that products selected as candidates for substitution – products that are deemed safe enough to approve, but have some unfavourable characteristics – can be re-approved if safer alternatives are not available.

Environment committee approval of both amendments could remove a large proportion of the 85% of products from the “at risk” list produced by the UK’s Pesticides Safety Directorate after the European Parliament’s first reading.

MEPs will also be voting on amendments tabled by other members of the environment committee. Among these the industry would be keen to see the following voted on favourably:

  • A proposal that endocrine disruption cannot be used to ban a substance until it has been clearly defined
  • The EU Commission produce an impact assessment on the impact of approval cut-off criteria, and that they will not be applied until the assessment is made