Pesticide proposal changes to face vote on 5 November

A complete ban on pesticides in "sensitive" areas and more stringent hazard-based approaches to regulation are back on the table after a series of amendments to proposed EU legislation.

The battle over the future of pesticide use will reach a critical point next week when MEPs vote on over 400 new amendments to the legislation. Amendments to the proposed new Sustainable Use Directive and the regulation that will replace Directive 91/414/EEC are up for vote on 5 November.

For the amenity sector the most worrying amendment is in the Sustainable Use Directive.

It proposes a complete ban on pesticide use in residential areas, public parks, sports and recreation grounds, school grounds and children's playgrounds, and in the vicinity of public healthcare facilities.

Amenity Forum chairman Jon Allbutt said: "We are nervously watching what happens on the voting for the amendments.

"But we do feel we are getting more support from other member states for a more balanced and risk-based approach rather than prohibition."

On the production horticulture side, the critical issues are a proposed hazard-based approach to registration of chemicals and the "candidates for substitution" issue. Combined, the proposals could lead to a "huge number of substances lost," said NFU plant health adviser Paul Chambers.

He added that the Pesticides Safety Directorate's research, which showed 85 per cent of substances could be lost, stemmed from these proposals.

Chambers said: "A risk-based approach looks at a product's realistic use, so a granule might be allowed where a spray is not.

"With a hazard approach you look at the substance's properties in lab conditions, which in practice would mean banning anything carcinogenic, but even something like alcohol is carcinogenic (in those conditions)."

Under the "candidates for substitution" issue, if two substances do the same job, the "nastier" one would be phased out over five years rather than the 10-year period proposed by the council, added Chambers. Chambers also said that good news on the "candidates for substitution" issue was that if there was no suitable alternative for products they would not be lost.

Following the vote on the amendments - many of which have been made by German Green MEP Hiltrud Breyer - the Committee on the Environment, Public Health & Food Safety will write reports on the result.

These reports will be brought before the full European Parliament for the final vote - expected to be in December for the Sustainable Use Directive, and January for the regulation that will replace Directive 91/414.

However, a proposed amendment from the HTA and Crop Protection Association (CPA) has also been made by British MEPs Robert Sturdy and Caroline Jackson calling for a full assessment before the draft regulation becomes law.

Crop Protection Association Garden Expert Group chairman Sean McCarthy said: "There is growing evidence from across Europe that the parliament's proposals will have a serious negative impact on ornamental horticulture. A full assessment will enable an informed debate on the costs and benefits of the parliament's proposals."

MP Brian Donohoe last week tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the Government to carry out a full assessment of the impact of proposed EU pesticide legislation.

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