Parliament has voted to expand the scope of substances banned from use in EU pesticide production. But tough restrictions on the use of pesticides, as proposed by Green MEPs, were endorsed only partially.

  • Detox

In a 23 October first-reading vote, Parliament added potentially immunotoxic and neurotoxic substances to the Commission's proposed list of substances that cannot be used in the production of pesticides. The Commission's existing list includes carcinogenic, genotoxic and endocrine-disrupting substances, as well as those substances that could harm reproductive health.

Under the Commission's plans, the EU would draw up a list of 'active substances' that can be used in pesticide production. Member states would then be left to approve individual pesticides produced using the approved substances.

About five or six percent of pesticides currently used in the EU would become illegal if Parliament's first-reading vote is approved by member states and becomes law, according to the Commission. 

But a more far-reaching ENVI committee proposal to reduce total EU pesticide use by 50% over ten years was rejected by Parliament, which wants to leave the decision to member states, preferring to impose reduction targets only in certain cases where highly dangerous substances are in use. Parliament wants the use of those substances, known as 'active substances of very high concern', to be halved by 2013.

  • Approval regime

The Commission's zone-based approach (see EurActiv 22/10/07) was rejected by the Parliament, which prefers member states to maintain national control over product approval.

Parliament also voted for shorter approval periods for substances than the Commission, which proposed a ten-year approval period for most new substances, with low-risk ones being permitted for 15 years. Substances that could be 'easily replaced' with less toxic ones should only be authorised for seven years, says the Commission's proposal.

But Parliament endorsed earlier calls by MEPs in the ENVI Committee for five-year instead of seven-year approval periods for replaceable products. Parliament is also opposed to Commission plans concerning the renewal of substance authorisations: the Commission favours an indefinite renewal once a substance has been initially approved for a ten-year period, but Parliament wants substance authorisations to be renewed only once, and "for a period not exceeding ten years".

  • Spraying and use

Restrictions on spraying in and around public areas such as schools and hospitals were supported by most MEPs, as was a ban on aerial spraying - but with derogations allowed, particularly in areas that are difficult to reach such as vineyards. 

Parliament did not, however, back a total ban on the use of pesticides in public areas, and it rejected several of the more restrictive measures proposed by the ENVI Committee, such as requiring farmers to inform neighbours of their intention to spray pesticides or imposing a ten metre no-use buffer zone around bodies of water. Member states should be left to determine the extent of buffer zones themselves, according to a majority of MEPs.