The Spanish region of Aragón is set to request European funding from the Horizon 2020 programme to combat environmental pollution caused by a now-banned pesticide. EurActiv Spain reports.
At a meeting on Wednesday (20 July) between the region’s Minister of Rural Development and Sustainability, Joaquín Olona, and Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research and Development, the latter admitted that the contamination problem “should be addressed at European level”.
Olona insisted that Aragón would “compete” for EU funds and also welcomed this first step towards eliminating the pesticide problem completely.
The Aragónese minister said that the plan is to try and clean up the contamination within 25 years and indicated that Moedas acknowledged the “complexity and difficulty” of the situation.
“The magnitude of the problem justifies the timeframe,” Olona insisted, adding that “if we can resolve it sooner, it will be all the better, but we have to be realistic”.
The minister also said that one of the Commission’s recommendations was to address the pesiticide problem within the area of the circular economy.
The pesticide in question, lindane, is an organochlorine insecticide that is toxic and harmful to humans if improperly handled, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO); its production was banned in the EU in 1988. As of 2006, it has been banned in 52 countries around the world.
Between 1950 and 2000, it is estimated that 600,000 tonnes of lindane were produced globally, primarily for use in the agricultural sector, although it does have pharmaceutical applications, some of which are still permitted.
The Gallego River, a tributary of the Ebro, is one of the main areas where concentrated residues of lindane have found their way into the environment due to inadequate measures taken by the company that manufactured the neurotoxin between 1975 and 1989.
The pesticide is relatively long-lived and can quickly accumulate in food chains. Lindane is gradually broken down by organisms such as bacteria and algae, but this is a very slow process.
In his report on the situation as it is, Olona said that things have progressed well since 1992, where “the contamination has been confined and isolated”.
Additionally, the minister met with officials from DG AGRI, after which he highlighted that “it is time to think about a fundamental reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) in the medium-term.
Olona also said that he was pleased that the Commission had taken into account the proposal published by his regional government on the CAP’s reform.