Is Europe becoming an unregulated playground for pesticides?

Harmful pesticides are not being assessed properly before being sprayed on farms, parks, and playgrounds across Europe, with regulators often trusting companies to declare their own products as ‘safe’.

In response, over 100 NGOs and organisations and 25 scientific and legal experts have formed a new coalition – Citizens for Science in Pesticide Regulation. The group today launched a manifesto demanding an overhaul of the way pesticides are tested for the market in Europe.

The group says that better testing would ensure higher levels of protection from harmful products. They call for pesticides to only be used as a last resort when all other non-chemical alternatives have been applied and failed, and for decision makers to rely on data that is complete, public, up-to-date and free from corporate bias.

Dr. Angeliki Lysimachou, Science Policy Officer of Pesticide Action Network Europe, said:

The current pesticide risk assessment procedure is failing us. The rules are not respected.”

Lysimachou also warned that the companies that produce pesticides are currently allowed to design and use their own secret tests before declaring their products as ‘safe’. She said: “many tons of harmful pesticides are used in Europe today, in increasing numbers, even when scientific evidence from public research shows they are not safe”.

While EU rules in place since 2009 state that pesticide products must only be authorised if they are not found to pose any risks to humans, animals, or the environment, Pesticide Action Network Europe says that in practice European regulators are letting harmful products slip through the net.

Expert panels of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) continue to include people with financial ties to the agro-chemical industry. The pesticide industry continues to do its own safety testing and is heavily involved in designing risk assessment methods.

The European Commission is currently reviewing EU pesticides legislation and a European Parliament committee convened by MEPs in the wake of the glyphosate re-approval controversy will deliver its recommendations for reform of the pesticide authorisation process at the end of 2018.

Dr Apolline Rogers, a lawyer from ClientEarth, said there was evidence that the current requirement for pesticides to not be harmful to human and animal health were not being respected:

The authorities in charge need to remember their obligations under EU law. They must change the way they assess and authorise pesticides to make sure that people and environment are effectively protected.”

Scientific evidence indicates that humans and the environment are not being sufficiently protected from the harmful chemicals in pesticide products. Studies reveal an abnormally high rate of diseases in farming families and residents in agricultural areas, high levels of pesticide residues detected in food and the natural environment, and the decline of biodiversity and wildlife in proximity to agricultural areas.