Pesticides: MEPs and Council reach agreement

Nachfolgend wird eine geringfügig modifizierte Pressemitteilung des Europäischen Parlaments dokumentiert.

EP negotiators struck a compromise with Council representatives on Wednesday night on the final shape of new EU pesticides legislation. The full Parliament will vote on the second-reading deal in Strasbourg in January and it must then be formally endorsed by the full Council.
Wednesday’s accord dealt with two pieces of legislation: a regulation on the production and licensing of pesticides, and a directive on the sustainable use of pesticides.

Banning of toxic chemicals

The key points of the regulation on the production and licensing of pesticides, as now agreed, are as follows:

* A positive list of approved „active substances“ (the chemical ingredients of pesticides) is to be drawn up at EU level. Pesticides will then be licensed at national level on the basis of this list.
* Certain highly toxic chemicals, namely those which are genotoxic, carcinogenic or toxic to reproduction, will be banned unless their effect would in practice be negligible.
* Developmental neurotoxic, immunotoxic and certain endocrine-disrupting substances will be banned if they are deemed to pose a significant risk.
* If a substance is needed to combat a serious danger to plant health, it may be approved for up to five years even if it does not meet the above safety criteria.
* Products containing certain hazardous substances („candidates for substitution“) are to be replaced if safer alternatives are shown to exist. MEPs successfully demanded a shorter deadline for their replacement, of three years rather than five.
* Member States will be able to license pesticide products at national level or through mutual recognition. The EU will be divided into three zones (north, centre and south) with compulsory mutual recognition within each zone as the basic rule. But, following pressure from MEPs, individual States will be allowed to ban a product, for example because of specific environmental or agricultural circumstances.

The new legislation will only gradually supersede existing EU law. Pesticides which can be placed on the market under current legislation will remain available until their existing authorisation expires. There will thus be no sudden large-scale withdrawal of products from the market.

The MEP steering this legislation through Parliament is Hiltrud Breyer (Greens/EFA, DE).

Cutting the amount of pesticides used

The main points of the directive on the sustainable use of pesticides, as agreed, are:

* Member States will adopt National Action Plans with quantitative targets, measures and timetables „to reduce risks and impacts of pesticide use“ on human health and the environment, as well as measures to encourage integrated pest management and alternative pest control methods. In addition, „On the basis of indicators, timetables and targets for the reduction of use“ will be established. MEPs dropped their demand for a reduction target of 50% to help secure a compromise with the Council.
* Aerial crop spraying will in general be banned, albeit with exceptions subject to approval by the authorities. Request to use aerial spraying must be submitted in due time to the authorities. If the authorities do not reply within a set time to a request submitted in accordance with an approved application plan, the request is deemed approved.
* Member States must ensure appropriate measures are taken to protect the aquatic environment and drinking water supplies from the impact of pesticides. These will include buffer zones for the protection of aquatic organisms and safeguard zones for surface and groundwater used for drinking water, where pesticides must not be used or stored.
* Lastly, Parliament and Council agreed to prohibit pesticide use or keep it at least to a minimum, in specific areas used by the general public or by vulnerable groups, such as parks, public gardens, sports and recreation grounds, school grounds and playgrounds and in the close vicinity of healthcare facilities.

Parliament’s rapporteur on the directive is Christa Klaß (EPP-ED, DE).

Procedure: Co-decision, second reading — Plenary vote: January, Strasbourg