German lawmakers call for ending exports of banned pesticides

An estimated 41 million unintentional pesticide poisonings occur worldwide each year, and up to 40,000 of these are fatal. [EPA-EFE | STR]

Pesticides that are currently banned in Europe may still be exported to foreign countries, an issue which highlights the EU’s lack of coherence, according to the leftist Die Linke and the Greens. EURACTIV Germany reports.

What is harmful to people and nature in Europe cannot be good for the Global South, argues Eva-Maria Schreiber of the Die Linke’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag.

In a joint motion that will be debated in the Bundestag on Thursday (11 February), Die Linke and the Greens say 41 million unintentional pesticide poisonings are estimated to occur worldwide each year, of which up to 40,000 are fatal.

These figures are extracted from a report by Pesticide Action Network Germany, which covers all pesticides, not just those banned in the EU. It suggests the problem occurs primarily in the Global South.

“Although only about 25% of global pesticide use occurs in developing countries, 99% of all fatal pesticide poisoning incidents occur there,” the report says.

To reduce the number of cases, the Greens and Die Linke are calling on the government to impose an export ban on pesticides banned for use in Germany.

Although there are international agreements on pesticide trade and guidelines on occupational health and safety in pesticide use, the two parliamentary groups argue these are neither legally binding on exporters. Moreover, the guidelines “only concern certain groups of substances or only provide for information obligations towards the importing country.”

BASF, one of Germany’s largest pesticide producers, defended its export practices. In emerging markets, the company sells crop protection products only “if they simultaneously meet the requirements of the Code of Conduct of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO),” the company told EURACTIV in a statement.

The German chemical multinational also says it provides training on safe storage and use of pesticides for employees in countries where it sells its products.

“BASF is confident in the safety of its products and their safe usability when used correctly according to label instructions and product stewardship guidelines,” the company said.

But according to Schreiber, safe handling of pesticides is almost impossible in some developing countries due to local temperatures or the working conditions prevailing on site. And even if they were handled safety, they would still be damaging to the environment, she told EURACTIV.

The parliamentary motion does not aim to amend the law, but simply calls for an existing law to be applied. §25 Section 3 sentence 2 of the Plant Protection Act allows the German Ministry of Agriculture, in consultation with other ministries, to “prohibit or restrict the export of certain plant protection products […] to countries outside the European Union.”

In Europe, France is seen as a trailblazer, with a law banning the production, storage and export of unauthorised pesticides coming into force in 2022.

Schreiber hopes that Germany will follow suit and is looking to Brussels where the issue has long been on the table.

The European Commission is currently considering an export ban for substances that are banned in the EU as part of a chemicals strategy that includes pesticides.

Commission to consider halting export of banned pesticides, EU source says

The European Commission will look to ensure that hazardous chemicals, such as pesticides, banned in the European Union are not produced for export, including by “amending relevant legislation if and as needed”, an EU source has confirmed to EURACTIV.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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