Parliament gives green light to pesticides regs

MEPs have voted to ban the use of several toxic chemicals in pesticides and put in place new rules to protect the public and the environment from other pesticides.

Parliament approved the new EU legislation this month, which will also make it easier to sell pesticides across borders.

Under the terms of the legislation, a list of approved chemical substances will be drawn up by the EU and pesticides will then be licensed at a national level using the list.

It will ban the use of certain chemicals which can cause cancer, or genetic or reproductive problems, or could be harmful to honeybees.

It means that some products could be removed from shop shelves within the next three years if they cannot be manufactured with alternative substances on the ‘safe list’.

But MEPs said the legislation would benefit pesticide manufacturers as it would be quicker and easier to gain approval for products.

Hiltrud Breyer, who steered the legislation through Parliament, said: “This agreement is a win-win situation – not only for the environment, public health and consumer protection – but also for the European economy, since it will lead to more innovation, placing the EU at the forefront of this sector.”

The legislation also includes a sustainable pesticide use directive, which bans aerial crop spraying, minimises the use of pesticides in public areas such as parks and school grounds, and encourages alternative pest control methods such as crop rotation.

“Buffer zones” will also have to be set up around bodies of water and there will be protected areas along roads and railways.

British Conservative MEPs criticised the legislation, arguing that it would reduce yields of certain key crops such as cereals and potatoes, and push up prices for consumers.

The European Crop Protection Association praised the measures to make it easier to get products licensed, but said the criteria for banning chemicals was a “major concern” as European farmers have already lost access to 60% of the substances available in 1991.

Director general Friedhelm Schmider said: “The question arises of what further losses are in store for both the farmer’s pest-fighting portfolio and European food production as a result of the legislation.”

In contrast, Greenpeace Europe said the law would fail to adequately protect the public and the environment from harmful substances.

“Banning 22 harmful substances out of over 400 is barely a start. There are at least 100 highly toxic pesticides that have not been phased out,” said Greenpeace chemicals expert Manfred Krautter.

The package still has to be formally adopted by the Council, and would then come into effect in late 2010.

Kate Martin

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