28 November 1997

EU expected to pursue polluter pays principle

More effective weed control

was the theme of this years

British Crop Protection

Conference in Brighton. But

discussions also included

pesticide legislation,

herbicide tolerant crops and

drift control. Charles Abel,

Andrew Blake and

Robert Harris were there

and report the highlights

over the next five pages

AN ENVIRONMENTAL tax on pesticides to counter consumer concern over agrochemical use could soon be a reality.

"The principle of the polluter pays is firmly entrenched in EU legislation and agriculture is one of the target areas," says the SACs Fraser Quin.

The likelihood of such a change is confirmed by Brussels-based EC consultant Brian Sheridan. "It is highly likely that the EC will introduce further regulations for plant protection products by 2000-2001," he says.

The ECs intention for change has been signalled through recent reports, which clearly demonstrate the need for a policy change to reflect consumer pressure. Little account has been taken of the benefits of crop protection and a move to restricting overall use seems likely, he suggests.

However, Pierre Urech of the European Crop Protection Asso-ciation, which represents pesticide makers, argues that rate reduction is losing credibility. "The OECD has felt that for half a year and the EC parliament voted against it in late September."

Mandatory rate reductions in Sweden and the Netherlands brought no greater benefit than the impact of economics, ICM and more active products in countries with no such policies, like France and Germany, he says.

Arbitrary limits on pesticide residues in water have already denied EU farmers access to a whole host of pesticide products based on 14 new active ingredients, he adds.

One of the main factors governing the likely uptake of a pesticide tax is the development of a suitable method of pesticide classification.

Several models already exist to simplify complex relationships like toxicity, persistence, environmental impact and leaching potential.

Validity testing of those models started six months ago in the EU. If interested parties agree on one model, that will provide much of the information needed for taxation, says Dr Quin. "The logical conclusion is that it will happen."