A new document lists 18 areas where pesticide safety assessments within the EU fall short.
A lack of proper safety measures across the European Union means that dangerous substances in pesticides may continue to have an adverse impact on the environment and human health, stresses a group of 24 experts from a variety of scientific fields in a newly released White Paper.
The document identifies several shortfalls in the safety assessment of pesticides in Europe, which may lead to dangerous substances being used in open spaces. “The current model of pesticide risk assessment that determines the approval of pesticide substances in the European Union is problematic, as it fails to prevent the use of harmful chemicals in the production of our food,” the document stresses.
Largely to blame, the authors stress, is the pesticide industry. “Industry is dominating the assessment process at all levels, testing, methodology, lobby, communication and court cases, it is more than time to reform the entire process and put industry at a good distance,” says Hans Muilerman, chemical officer at the advocacy group Pesticide Action Network Europe, or PAN Europe.
The document lists 18 areas where pesticide safety assessments within the EU fall short. The science used in in pesticide risk assessment procedures is often misapplied or outdated because it is based on old methodologies, the authors stress. It fails to take into account evidence from recent scientific findings, which means that hazardous chemical products often continue to be allowed to be used.
“Regulatory authorities repeatedly claim to have used a scientific approach,” says Peter Clausing, a taxocologist who was a co-author of the document. “The White Paper reveals significant gaps and weaknesses concerning the science the authorities use for their risk assessment and it makes proposals for substantial improvements.”
The experts are calling for a new science-based approach in pesticide risk assessment. “Over the last decade there have been a number of major advances in our understanding of how best to review scientific evidence of health risks posed by exposure to chemical substances,” says researcher Paul Whaley from the Lancaster Environment Centre. “These advances must be reflected in pesticide risk assessment if we are to have fair, transparent and effective regulation which protects health and minimises the environmental impact of agriculture,” he adds.
Another group of researchers recently found that pesticides have been accumulating in European soil, posing a constant risk to land-based and aquatic ecosystems alike.
“If the EU wants its policies on pesticides to have scientific credibility and democratic legitimacy it must widen the scope of its risk assessments to ensure that it properly assesses the risks of commercial products as sold, rather than just the main active ingredient,” stresses Prof. Erik Millstone from University of Sussex, who was a co-author of the White Paper.
“It must also ensure that uncertainties are comprehensively acknowledged, and that the precautionary principle is applied consistently, not opportunistically,” he adds.