Contentious EU pesticides legislation was finally passed last month in Europe. Mike Abram joined a Chemicals Regulation Directorate conference on its implementation
Advanced spray notification will be one of the key discussion points as implementing controversial new European pesticides legislation begins.
Despite overturning Georgina Downs’ original high court ruling that DEFRA had failed in its obligations to protect rural residents, ministers have made it clear that spray notification needs to be part of the consultation on implementing the new directive on using pesticides, Dave Bench of the Chemicals Regulation Directorate told Crops.
The new sustainable use directive was adopted last week, along with more controversial measures on the authorisation of pesticides, by EU ministers, which together are designed to further improve safety to human health and the environment from pesticides.
“But we need to make sure that the requirements of the directive are covered by what we already do. Where it is covered and we are content with the standard being achieved there shouldn’t be any problems – we don’t want to create unnecessary bureaucracy.”
There is, however, provision in the new directive for possibly including advance warning of spraying to residents and bystanders, and it is something in the light of the Downs case, ministers feel should be consulted on.
“Ministers have been quite clear that the consultation should be open and ask for opinions on a range of options,” Mr Bench said. Those options would range from keeping or enhancing current arrangements to implementing statutory measures. The consultation would also ask for opinions on options that required different levels of effort for farmer and public, he said.
“We’re also planning to include a cost analysis of the different elements, and would welcome comments on that too.”
Another element to the Sustainable Use Directive is that it requires each country to write a National Action Plan on pesticides, including targets on reducing their use. “The key is that we don’t want to get tied into anything not meaningful, such as reductions based on just tonnes of active ingredient,” Mr Bench said.
The UK’s action plan would build on the current National Pesticide Strategy, he said.
“In our opinion the effect should be to reduce risk to operators, residents and bystanders or the environment. It isn’t about the individual use of products but a broader question about the right strategy, and how that can be written in the National Action Plan to produce something meaningful that can be delivered.”
Plenty of questions – and work – remain in implementing the second strand of the pesticides legislation that deals with product authorisations.
But the debate over whether hazard criteria should be used to help determine whether an active ingredient is approved was now over, CRD’s Rob Mason said at the conference. “The question, why are we doing this, was last year’s discussion. It is time to move on.”
The main problem area during the negotiations was the possibility of any active ingredient with endocrine disruption properties not being approved, despite no firm definition of how that would be applied.
The commission now had four years to come up with how it would work, Mr Mason said. In the meantime an interim definition would be used. “We don’t really find that satisfactory [either], but will have to work with it.”
Fortunately most current products wouldn’t be assessed under the new rules until after the new definition had been worked out, he pointed out. “So the interim measures won’t apply.”
The UK was trying to influence what the definition would be, Mr Bench said. “We’ve met with the commission to talk through our concerns, and have encouraged it to come up with a definition faster than the four years.
“We’re also part of a German initiative to bring together a technical group to see what a sensible definition would look like. The best way would be to come up with a consensus sensible definition across the countries.
“We’ll monitor how it progresses. If we don’t think it is going the right way, we’ll have to look again.”