Pesticides have been found in half the foods eaten by Europeans, with six of the most dangerous consistently in the top ten measured. But the battle to act against the risks of pesticides pits productivity, reductions in disease vectors, and other benefits against the difficult to prove risks of developing cancer or the hypothesis that sharp declines in bee populations can be attributed, at least in part, to pesticide contamination in the environment.
Now, spurred on by a political commitment to the precautionary principle, German green representative Hiltrud Breyer has stewarded a proposal for a directive on sustainable pesticides through the compromise process to an outcome that will phase out 22 pesticide ingredients.In the words of Ms. Breyer:
This agreement is a milestone for the environment, health and consumer protection in Europe. The EU will set a global precedent by phasing out highly toxic pesticides.
The law prioritizes action against pesticide ingredients which cause cancer, which are mutagenic or which can harm reproductive processes, including reducing fertility or causing birth defects. It also creates a framework to define and evaluate pesticides which act as endocrine disruptors -- chemicals which mimic normal hormones and can have an affect on the body at very low concentrations.
The political agreement is expected to be approved, and will not be final until it is confirmed by the EP plenary vote on 14 January 2009 and then formally endorsed by the full Council. New Year's resolution for Europe: safer pesticides for a sustainable agricultural future.
More on pesticide effects and the pesticide ban:
UK Reaction to Pesticide Ban in The Independent
Statement by Hiltrud Breyer
European Parliament adopts REACH - Chemicals Management By The Precautionary Principle
Bayer in the Dock Over Pesticide Linked to Colony Collapse Disorder