A number of farm, supply trade and food chain bodies have written to Defra minister George Eustice to outline their concern at EU proposals that could remove endocrine disruptor pesticides from the market.

Signatories include the AIC; AICC; British Crop Production Council; British Society of Plant Breeders; CLA, the Crop Protection Association; the Food and Drink Federation; the national association of British and Irish millers and the English and Ulster farm unions. They state that the European Commission’s proposed criteria for endocrine disruptors (EDs) within the Plant Protection Products Regulation would lead to the withdrawal from the market of important plant protection products, in turn adversely affecting crop production and the UK’s competitiveness in agriculture, food and trade.  

The current ED criteria are based on the World Health Organisation International Programme on Chemical Safety (WHO/IPCS) definition, which is unsuitable on its own to support regulatory decision-making, the letter continues. They fail to take into account all elements of hazard characterisation, including potency, severity and duration of effect, and elimination, all critical to the overall risk assessment needed to determine any real danger to human health and the environment.

Therefore, the EU proposals fail to balance the needs of human health and the environment with their socio-economic effect – the AHDB has estimated this at 10% of the value of crop production, or some £0.95 billion. In addition, their withdrawal would increase the pressure on existing pesticides, with little alternative chemistry in the pipeline.

“Until the UK formally exits the EU, we remain subject to EU law and regulations, and under the government’s Repeal Bill proposals, for some time afterwards,” notes BCPC chairman Dr Colin Ruscoe. “We have therefore strongly urged the minister to continue to promote use of science-based risk assessment as the basis of EU regulation to support modern, productive and sustainable agriculture in Europe, and to challenge hard the Commission’s flawed proposals on EDs.”

Furthermore, the Commission is now proposing two acts, one covering the proposed criteria, and a new one, to amend the current negligible risk derogation, warns Dr Ruscoe, stating that the derogation is crucial to avoiding negative impacts on trade, since it allows MRLs based on risk assessment. “This raises concern that the Commission is creating a focus on the derogation to get even this opportunity curtailed,” he warns.