The Parliament is likely to approve two reports which constitute new legislation, as agreed upon in negotiations with the Council last December (EurActiv 19/12/08). Meeting in Brussels this week, the largest political groups reportedly indicated their intention to vote in favour, while permanent representatives of EU countries are said to be prepared to support the text should the Parliament approve it in plenary on 14 January.
The new rules ban highly toxic chemicals, which are genotoxic, carcinogenic or toxic for reproduction, unless in pratice their effect is negligible. They also ban neurotoxic, immunotoxic and certain endocrine-disrupting substances which are deemed to pose a significant risk. These groups of chemicals must be replaced by safer alternatives, but their use is permitted for a limited period of five years if it can be proven that they are essential for crop survival.
The current round of pesticides legislation is highly controversial and has attracted much attention, which the Parliament believes is partly due to "misunderstandings over [its] likely impact" (see EurActiv LinksDossier for further background information).
The agricultural sector contests the scientific basis of the selection of the banned chemicals, and laments the lack of assessment of their impact on industry. Phil Newton, senior communications manager at the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), described the proposals as "bad legislation based on incorrect science," claiming that the cut-off criteria are based on ideology, fear and perception.
Although a majority of MEPs now seems ready to adopt the pesticides package, not everyone is united in their support. Scottish MEP Alyn Smith, a member of the Parliament's agriculture committee, emphasised last month that Scotland's farmers had no alternative to using crop protection products and said the proposed legislation went too far in forcing farmers to buy "expensive and impractical" alternatives to many chemicals, raising costs.