March 2. 2024. 3:21

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Commission moves towards halting emergency use of all banned pesticides


The emergency use of all banned plant protection products in the EU could soon be a thing of the past, according to the European Commission’s initial reading of the recent EU court ruling involving specifically bee-toxic pesticides.

With the ruling, announced in January of this year, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) confirmed that member states would no longer be allowed to grant derogations temporarily permitting the use of seeds treated with ‘expressly banned’ plant protection products by EU law.

The plant protection products in question – imidacloprid, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam – belong to a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids that target insects and are chemically similar to nicotine.

Neonicotinoids have come under fire in recent years for contributing to the decline of bees by disrupting their sense of orientation, memory, and reproductive systems.

However, the ruling left a question mark over the extent of its reach. Specifically, campaign groups questioned whether it extended to include all banned pesticides and the export of banned pesticides.

Now, the Commission’s food safety service (DG SANTE) has put forward its initial interpretation of the ruling, which confirmed that the EU executive believes this extends beyond the neonicotinoid pesticides in question.

“We think indeed member states can no longer grant emergency authorisations for the placing on the market, or the use of the plant protection products where a decision has been taken to forbid them because of the harmful effects,” DG SANTE’s Clare Bury said during a meeting of the European Parliament’s environment committee.

“I’d like to recall that the Commission has always […] looked very critically at the emergency authorisations, in particular where they have been done on a repeated basis,” she added, pointing out that the EU executive has also taken action to “increase transparency and scrutiny of emergency authorisations granted by member states in particular”.

Contacted by EURACTIV, a Commission spokesperson explained that the Commission is still currently analysing the judgement, and therefore this interpretation is not necessarily the one that will stick.

But the general understanding in the corridors of Brussels is that, as things currently stand, it is most likely that the current DG SANTE’s reading is the interpretation that will hold.

EU Court puts end to emergency use of bee-toxic pesticides

The EU’s highest court ruled on Thursday (19 January) that EU countries should no longer be allowed temporary exemptions for banned, bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides, putting half of all such derogations to an end.

As for the member states that have already issued derogations for EU-banned pesticides for 2023, Commission’s Bury said that member states had already been advised to reconsider these applications.

“For any authorisations that have already been granted, they need to review those authorisations and see how they can withdraw them in the light of what their national legislation says,” she explained.

As such, the Commission believes member states “should act immediately to ensure compliance with the judgement and that they can no longer grant emergency authorisations,” Bury said.

Campaign group Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN) celebrated the news on Twitter and reiterated the call for member states who had already approved derogations for 2023, including Belgium and Finland, to withdraw their permits.

However, CropLife Europe, representing the EU’s crop protection industry, reiterated in a statement that the Court’s ruling “clarifies when emergency authorisations may be granted by member states”.

“The Court of Justice of the EU based its judgement regarding two neonics, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, on the fact that the use of the seeds treated with these seeds was expressly restricted by a Commission implementing regulation,” a representative said.

EU loopholes give free pass to toxic banned pesticides

Banned pesticides deemed toxic to humans and environmental health are still consistently in use in the EU thanks to the routine use of emergency derogations, a new report has found.