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Verbatim report of proceedings
Monday, 22 October 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Framework directive on the sustainable use of pesticides - Thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides - The placing of plant protection products on the market (debate)

  Hiltrud Breyer (Verts/ALE), rapporteur. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I have the privilege of introducing a report that will offer Parliament the opportunity tomorrow to vote for a breakthrough towards greater health, and environmental and consumer protection. According to the Eurobarometer, the use of pesticides is the foremost concern among European consumers, and the Committee has taken that into account.

More than 220 000 tonnes of pesticide are applied in Europe every year. This represents 25% of global pesticide use on only 4% of the world’s farmland. In our view, the eradication of high-risk pesticides should be the core of this regulation. These are pesticides which have carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductively toxic properties as well as those with neurotoxic, immunotoxic or hormonal effects.

This regulation would be a huge contribution to making pesticides safer, but we must also incorporate rules for less dangerous pesticides. The active substances that are most frequently discovered in concentrations exceeding the EU residue limits should not be marketed any more, because they have thereby proved, I am afraid to say, that they are uncontrollable.

We are also pleased that the substitution principle, which already represented a crucial step towards better health protection when it was incorporated into the EC Chemicals Regulation, is to be enshrined in the proposed regulation too, because substitution is a particularly powerful stimulant of competition in the pesticides industry. It is scandalous and nothing short of scaremongering to sound warnings that up to half of all pesticides could disappear from the market.

May I thank the Commission for establishing such stringent substitution criteria, for pesticides need to be improved tenfold. They should – and this is a proposal made by Parliament’s Environment Committee – be authorised for a period not exceeding five years. The Commission’s proposal, however, also regulates how we should deal with cases of resistance.

Another key feature of the proposed regulation is better protection of sensitive groups. As we know, foetuses, babies and children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of hazardous chemicals. For this reason I am pleased that the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has proposed that decisions on the authorisation of active substances and the assessment of the risks they entail be made by reference to the more vulnerable groups in society.

I am particularly pleased to be able to tell you that we have also introduced rules on labelling, because food products that are not compliant with Directive 2006/215 must carry an indication to that effect. That is a giant step towards greater transparency, for studies, and in particular a study conducted by environmental NGOs in the parliamentary supermarket, have shown just how risky products, notably everyday products, can be. Measured values were up to 200 times higher than the levels normally prescribed for infant and baby food.

Greater transparency for the sake of these vulnerable groups, but also for consumers and people living near farmland, means greater support for Europe as a whole too, because there must be no more prodding about in the dark when it comes to traceability. Reports, lists of licensed pesticides, residue readings and, above all, toxicological and ecotoxicological data must be made accessible to everyone almost in real time, and local residents must be informed of imminent crop-spraying through a central information system. The pesticide passport will make it possible to trace, through wholesale and retail outlets, which pesticide was used when. That will create competition, and consumers, of course, will be the main beneficiaries of competition between manufacturers producing only safe products.

Another of our aims is that this regulation should ensure high environmental standards. This is why the Environment Committee came out against the idea of dividing Europe arbitrarily into three zones that are not based on any environmental or climatic criteria or on landscape types. Moreover, Commissioner, the idea did not win majority support in the Council. Like the Council, we advocate better voluntary cooperation in Europe on product licensing. Let me also reiterate that there are strong legal reservations, because no intergovernmental agreements exist within these zones to enforce mandatory mutual recognition of pesticide licences. Such provisions exist in the EU context on the basis of the European treaties, but there is no legal framework for mutual recognition within the defined zones.

People in Europe do not want poison on their plates. I hope that this regulation will also improve Europe’s standing as a business location, because it will make Europe a better place for consumers to live, and it will be universally beneficial – not only to the environment and consumers and in terms of animal welfare, but above all to manufacturers and farmers, since they will receive more incentives to innovate and become more competitive.

In conclusion, I would like to express my warmest thanks to the shadow rapporteurs, who have collaborated on this report in a truly cooperative manner. I hope that this new pesticides regulation will enable us to raise health and environmental protection to new heights in Europe.

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