EU farm ministers agree new anti-pesticide rules

EU farm ministers have approved a new regulation aimed at limiting the range of pesticides available for use in agriculture.

At a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (23 June) they achieved a qualified majority in favour of an EU Commission proposal that will introduce certain “cut-off criteria” into the approvals process.

This will outlaw any pesticides that contain active ingredients that are deemed hazardous – namely those that are genotoxic, carcinogenic, reprotoxic or endocrine-disrupting.

Pesticide manufacturers say this will lead to 15% of existing crop protection products being deregistered, and 24% being substituted. This will cause a drop in crop yields and a subsequent increase in food prices.

Full impact assessment

They maintain that the existing legislation should not be changed until a full impact assessment is carried out.

“Just because a product has hazardous properties does not mean it is dangerous,” said European Crop Protection Association director, Friedhelm Schmider. “Proper risk evaluations of products are required to determine this, taking the dose and actual use into consideration.

“At a time when the global population is worried about high food prices, the ruling will make it more difficult for European farmers to continue producing high quality food at affordable prices.”

It is understood that the UK, Ireland, Hungary and Romania could not support the rule change, but there was enough support from the remaining 23 member states to force it through.

Little practical benefit

The new text does include a derogation for certain products when it can be shown they are needed to deal with serious dangers to plant health.

But the British Crop Production Council says the process for implementing such a derogation is so restrictive, it will be of little practical benefit.

The next stage will be for the EU Commission to take the legislation back to the European parliament for a second reading.

But the parliament wants an even stricter interpretation of the rules with more cut-off criteria built in.

The ECPA reckons the European parliament’s version could take 85% of existing crop protection products off the market.

The end point is expected to be somewhere between the farm council’s and the parliament’s proposal.