EU completes 16-year pesticide review

  

Detailed human health and environmental risk assessment of some 1,000 active substances authorised for use in pesticides before 1991 has led to the removal of more than two thirds of them from the market.

The risk assessment review evaluated each substance with respect to the health of consumers, farmers, groundwater and non-target organisms, such as birds, mammals, earthworms and bees.

According to the European Commission, there were around 1,000 active substances contained in tens of thousands of products on the market when the review was launched in 1993. 

The review has led "to the removal from the market of more than two thirds of these substances," said Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, presenting the final results last week. 

The majority of substances, about 67%, were eliminated because "dossiers were either not submitted, were incomplete or were withdrawn by the industry," the Commission said. Some 70 substances were withdrawn from the market because the evaluation revealed risks to human health and the environment.

Another 250 substances (26%) passed the harmonised EU safety assessment. A database of the approved active substances is being launched today (16 March 2009).  

Late last year, the European Parliament and the Council reached agreement on new market authorisation rules for pesticides proposed by the Commission in July 2006 (EurActiv 19/12/08). The regulation, set to enter into force later in 2009, replaces the 1991 Directive on market authorisation of pesticides, under which the sixteen-year review was conducted, and thus restarts the assessment process for substances that are currently authorised. 

The new regulation tightens the environmental and health criteria for approval, introduces a ban on certain toxic chemicals and establishes the principle of compulsory mutual recognition of market authorisation inside three geographical zones (north, centre and south) of the EU. 

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