Pesticides row heats up ahead of key ministers’ meeting

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As EU agriculture ministers prepare to debate the controversial file next week, Greenpeace has published a ‘black list’ of companies that manufacture and market “particularly dangerous pesticides” which the group believes should be banned. But pesticides manufacturers slammed the move as a ‘PR stunt’. 

“Pesticides manufactured by German chemical multinational Bayer pose the biggest threat to human health and the environment,” Greenpeace said in a 16 June statement.

According to the group’s new report, Syngenta, Monsanto, BASF and Dow Chemicals are next in line in the ‘ranking’, which categorises companies according to various indicators related to the toxicity levels of their pesticides portfolios. Nearly half of these companies’ products should be blacklisted (kept off the EU market), according to the report.

However, the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) said the Greenpeace action “adds nothing constructive to a very important issue” and issued a statement defending the safety of its member companies’ products.

“All the products sold by our company members have been approved by the authorities at EU and member state level, based on stringent safety criteria and after rigorous testing,” ECPA said. 

In October 2006, the Commission put forward a new proposal for a regulation to tighten pesticide usage and authorisation rules in Europe. Parliament delivered its first reading of the proposal in October 2007, calling for the expansion of the scope of substances banned from use in EU pesticide production (EURACTIV 24/10/07). The Commission in turn put forward a revised proposal on 11 March, in which it rejected most of the Parliament’s proposals, putting the two institutions at odds (EURACTIV 19/03/08). 

The controversy surrounding pesticide use has been exacerbated further by concerns about rising food prices. Some farmers’ organisations argue that taking too many substances off the market would lead to significant declines in crop yields (EURACTIV 28/04/08). And in February, two of ECPA’s member companies released a study which concludes that overly stringent EU rules on pesticides will lead to a decline in European agricultural self-sufficiency, resulting in ever-increasing food prices and job losses in the agri-food sector (EURACTIV 05/02/08). 

Member states, meanwhile, are divided, particularly on the issue of pesticide substance restrictions. The EU’s agriculture ministers, who are responsible for the file, have so far failed to reach a compromise despite attempts by the Slovenian EU Presidency to broker a deal (EURACTIV 20/05/08). On 23 June, ministers will once again attempt to reach a compromise in order to agree a common position, paving the way for a second reading by the Parliament. 

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