Up to a quarter of pesticides still at risk

A new assessment (PDF) of the impact of proposed EU legislation to restrict the availability of pesticides has revealed that between 14% and 23% of approved products are likely to go.

The assessment has been done by the UK’s Pesticides Safety Directorate, to update the report it published in May of this year.

That study suggested that up to 15% of products could be banned if the EU Commission’s proposals for revamping the licensing rules were adopted. But a massive 85% of pesticides were at risk if the criteria approved by the European parliament at its first reading were applied.

Since then the dossier has been subject to extensive negotiation and change. In June, the agriculture council and the commission reached a “common position” which was pretty close to the original proposal – introducing four new “cut-off” criteria in the approvals process.

The European parliament’s environment committee then held its second reading, voting on a package in early November. While this still went further than the council’s common position, adding neurotoxic and immunotoxic to the cut-off criteria, it was far less restrictive than the version approved at first reading.

With these two new positions to hand, the PSD has revisited its impact assessment, to estimate how many of the 278 active ingredients approved in the EU would be banned.

“The common position could remove up to 14% of the substances, a total very similar to the 15% estimated for the commission’s original proposal,” says the report. But it complains that estimating the impact of “endocrine disrupting” – one of the four council cut-offs – remains a massive problem, given the lack of any official definition.

The PSD then considers the environment committee’s second reading position, concluding that it could result in the loss of about14-23% of substances assessed. This could fall to 9-21% if a more lenient definition of endocrine disruption is used.

The latest assessment pays closer attention to the two additional cut-offs. Up to 23 insecticides, including most pyrethroids and the slug killer methiocarb, could go because they are potentially neurotoxic, it says.

Stephan Schraff, policy manager for the European Crop Protection Association, said the new PSD assessment showed how the situation had improved since first reading. “But 14-23% of products is still a lot – amounting to almost a quarter of currently approved products.”

He was especially concerned that, even with the most modest definition of endocrine disruption, many of the azole products necessary to fight septoria in cereals would be lost, as would mancozeb, crucial to contain potato blight.

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