Commission seeks fresh pesticide legislation

The European Commission has proposed a set of new legislative measures and a new strategy to control the use of pesticides, including an almost complete ban on aerial spraying.

In a strategy document put forward earlier this week, the Commission set out plans for a directive to further protect human health and the environment from the effects of excessive pesticide use. It also proposed some amendments to toughen up existing legislation.

The legislation would set out common objectives and requirements on pesticide use, which member states could adapt to their own geography, climate and agricultural industries.

It would also create a list of approved pesticides, effectively banning any chemicals that do not appear on the list. Particularly dangerous pesticides that are already in use would be placed on another list to encourage industry to produce alternatives.

The agriculture industry would be expected to keep records of pesticide use, which could be used by water companies to track down polluters.

It would also include restrictions on spraying pesticides in sensitive areas, extra training for the people who use and distribute the chemicals, and national action plans to control their use.

Regulation would also be used to set minimum environmental standards for the equipment which is used to spread pesticides on farmland.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “Ensuring that the use of pesticides does not endanger public health or the environment is a fundamental obligation for the EU.

“We want to ensure that citizens today and in the future do not have their health endangered by the use of pesticides, and can benefit from a safe, clean and rich environment”.

But Pesticide Action Network Europe and Friends of the Earth issued a statement calling the proposals a “meaningless pathwork” and “unworkable”.

“There are plenty of good intentions, but no clear and enforceable actions. Even the simple and long-overdue ban on aerial spraying of pesticides is lost in the text”, said Grazia Cioci, PAN Europe’s campaign coordinator.

“Countries are free to decide when and where aerial spraying occurs, but aren’t obliged to tell bystanders or people living near sprayed fields.”

Meanwhile, the European Crop Protection Association said that while it broadly agreed with the strategy set out, some of the proposals go too far. ECPA director general Dr Friedhelm Schmider said: “The proposal introduces unnecessary new hurdles for the authorisation of pesticides.”

Gretchen Hendriks

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