EU pesticide legislation ‘not working as intended’ – MEP

EU Plant Protection Product legislation, one of the strictest in the world, is not working effectively – giving rise to duplication of effort by members states, according to one Irish MEP.

Mairead McGuinness, MEP and first Vice-President of the European Parliament, said the mutual recognition system of pesticide products is not working as intended.

The MEP for Midlands-North West was commenting in the European Parliament in Strasbourg yesterday (Thursday, September 13) where a report on implementation of the legislation was debated on.

“Currently, member states can accept commercial products that have been approved in another member state with similar environmental conditions – but in practice this is not happening,” she said.

Each member state is repeating the work and approval process due to a lack of trust between them.

“This doubling up on work is resulting in delays on approval of new agri-chemicals and in re-approvals of existing agri-chemicals and is unnecessary.”

McGuinness said there is increased pressure to reduce the use of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides and to remove some products from the market – sometimes without full consideration and analysis of the consequences.

She noted that, if an agri-chemical is found to have a negative impact on human or animal health or on the environment, it must be taken off the market.

“Farmers and growers will then need replacement products or new management techniques to replace the banned substance.

However, what is more likely to happen is that some crops will not be grown because the farmer no longer has access to the product.

She said there are consequences for production in the absence of effective, efficient and safe plant protection products.

She also noted that there is a specific issue with importing food into the EU where agri-chemicals that are banned in the EU are used in their cultivation.

Yesterday the parliament supported the MEP’s amendment pointing out this double standard.

It is hypocritical to ban the use of plant protection products within the EU but then import food produced with substances that are illegal in the EU, from third countries.

“Today’s report on the approval process for placing products on the market asks for action to be taken in this regard.

“Fast-tracking of products that are considered to be low-risk is also called for, as is further innovation in this area,” McGuinness said.

The report also calls for increased transparency and user-friendly information to be available and easily accessible to all.

In recent years over 20 active substances have not been approved based on scientific tests, the MEP said.

There is a two-pronged approach for a pesticide to be placed on the market. Firstly, the active chemical is approved at EU level and then member states approve the commercial product for sale.