12 January 2001
Brussels threat to niche growers

By Andrew Swallow

EUROPEAN legislation is expected to slash the choice of pesticides and make it too expensive to grow some crops, warns an industry expert.

The EU directive could also lead to a flood of produce from other countries not subject to legislation, says David Priestley of the Crop Protection Association.

Growers of specialist crops such as watercress and coriander look set to be hardest hit by the EU pesticide review.

Mr Priestley fears that it could leave only 300 active ingredients in use in Europe, compared to 850 when the review began 10 years ago.

He is concerned that approval for use of those active ingredients may well be limited to large-scale crops, squeezing out those for niche use.

Older, generic products are most likely to be dropped by manufacturers as future returns do not justify the cost of compiling the required information.

As niche use approvals for minority crops are unlikely to be defended, growing costs in the EU for some crops seem certain to rise, said Mr Priestley.

“The high standards in the EU may mean certain crops are just not viable any more,” he explained.

“There may be barriers to imports because of residue levels but that is probably the only barrier. The rest is down to the food retailers.”

Even where manufacturers defend usage, approvals are not guaranteed. There have already been four or five no decisions from the first phase of the review.

However, the EU commission has given the horticultural industry a stay of execution where essential inputs will be lost beyond the 2003 deadline.

This is to allow the development of alternative controls.

But the Pesticides Safety Directorate believes the longest the EU commission will permit any derogation to run is until 2006.