New EU pesticides law falls short of real progress

Food retailers already support stricter measures

Press release - January 13, 2009
Brussels/Strasbourg, International — The new pesticides law adopted today by the European Parliament in Strasbourg has left European citizens and the environment exposed to hundreds of harmful substances that can disrupt hormone levels in the body and damage the immune and nervous systems, said Greenpeace. The legislation also fails to immediately ban all pesticides that can cause cancer or harm the reproductive system.

"Banning 22 harmful substances out of over 400 is barely a start. There are at least 100 highly toxic pesticides that have not been phased out. Claiming that this legislation is a success for the health of Europeans and the environment is like saying that you've won the lottery when your ticket only matches one of the winning numbers. The lack of ambition of this law means that food in Europe will continue to be contaminated by many dangerous chemicals for years to come," said Manfred Krautter, Greenpeace chemicals expert.

However, the legislation puts and end to future authorisations of pesticides that can cause cancer, mutations or affect the human reproductive system. The pesticide industry has nonetheless been granted the option of obtaining exemption licences that will be valid for up to five years even for these high-risk pesticides.

Another significant flaw is that the new legislation will not apply to chemicals if licences for their use have already been granted. As a result, some harmful substances will continue to be used until their licence is up for renewal, which could be as late as 2020. On a more positive note, member states will in future have to set up action plans to reduce pesticide use, which must contain concrete goals, measures and schedules. However, EU member states were not willing to set minimum standards for such reduction plans.

"The fact that any progress at all was made in phasing out harmful pesticides is mainly due to the European Parliament. During negotiations, member states - Germany in particular - tended to side with the pesticides industry," said Krautter.

Meanwhile, leading German supermarket chain EDEKA announced its own much stricter pesticides blacklist last Friday, which urges farmers not to use hundreds of high-risk pesticides, many of which are allowed by the EU.[1]

"Some big retailers seem to take consumer protection more seriously than EU politicians and are calling for a much wider pesticides ban. EU farmers and food retailers should urgently replace the pesticides which are most hazardous to our health and the environment, such as those listed in the Greenpeace pesticides blacklist."[2]

Other contacts:

Manfred Krautter – Greenpeace chemicals expert (Germany):
+49 40 306 18 358, +49 171 878 0810 (mob.),
Mark Breddy – Greenpeace EU communications manager:
+32 (0)2 2741 903, +32 (0)496 15 62 29 (mob.),


[1] (in German).
[2] Die Schwarze Liste der Pestizide [The Pesticides Black List] (January 2008)
For the full study (in German, summary in English p.8) see