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Parliamentary question - E-3098/2009(ASW)Parliamentary question

Answer given by Mr Dimas on behalf of the Commission

Sulfuryl fluoride is currently under evaluation for possible inclusion in Annex I to Directive 91/414/EEC[1] concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market. The uses supported by the applicant are treatments against stored product pests in grain mills and storage areas as well as postharvest treatments of different commodities. For the time being, Member States are allowed to grant provisional authorisations under Article 8 of Directive 91/414/EEC.

For uses in plant protection products, sulfuryl fluoride is an effective alternative to methyl bromide, a powerful ozone-depleting substance, in certain use patterns such as post-harvest and quarantine and pre-shipment treatments. Methyl bromide is being phased-out worldwide under the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, with some exemptions for critical uses and quarantine and pre-shipment applications. In the EU, critical uses have ceased since the end of 2008; there will be a total ban for plant protection product uses, including for quarantine and pre-shipment applications by March 2010. The increase to which the Honourable Member refers can to a large extent be attributed to the replacement of methyl bromide, and the increase rate for the use of sulfuryl fluoride in the EU can, therefore, be expected to decline once methyl bromide is phased out.

In biocidal use, sulfuryl fluoride is used as a fumigant to disinfest wood in e.g. churches, houses, wooden objects and timber from wood destroying pests, and to control stored product insects in emptied food processing and storage facilities.

Industry data indicate that the total emissions of sulfuryl fluoride worldwide are approximately 2 000 tonnes per year. In the EU, the emissions from sulfuryl fluoride use represent 200 tonnes per year of which 90 % from the use of sulfuryl fluoride as a plant protection product and 10 % from biocidal use.

The environmental impact of the biocidal use of sulfuryl fluoride has been assessed twice at Community level[2]. In the latest report, the global warming potential (GWP) for sulfuryl fluoride over a 100-year time horizon was estimated to be lower than 378. Based on this report, the contribution of sulfuryl fluoride to global warming was estimated to be lower than 0.004 % in terms of CO2eq emissions.

The Commission is aware of the recent study indicating that sulfuryl fluoride remains in the atmosphere up to 10 times longer than previously thought, and that its GWP amounts to approximately 4800. Noting that the Fourth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does not indicate the GWP value for sulfuryl fluoride, the Commission considers that, even on the basis of the estimate of this study, the CO2eq emissions of sulfuryl fluoride would still represent a negligible share of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Commission is closely following up developments on this issue.

In the abovementioned context, the EU, in line with its overall strategy for the negotiations on climate change, does not, at this stage, intend to propose the inclusion of sulfuryl fluoride in a future agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Commission has currently no intention to phase out or ban the use of sulfuryl fluoride in biocidal products. For plant protection products, the Commission intends to propose a decision after the conclusion of the European Food Safety Authority has been delivered.

Pursuant to Article 5 of Directive 98/8/EC[3], biocidal products can be used in the EU only if they are effective and have no unacceptable effects on target organisms, on human or animal health or on the environment. Based on the two assessments mentioned above, the Commission decided to allow sulfuryl fluoride for use in wood preservatives[4], and has drawn up a draft directive allowing sulfuryl fluoride for use in insecticides[5]. This draft received the positive opinion of the Standing Committee on Biocidal products and has been submitted to the Council and the Parliament under the Regulatory Procedure with Scrutiny. The directives allow sulfuryl fluoride for professional use only, and contain a requirement to monitor and report every fifth year the concentrations of sulfuryl fluoride in remote tropospheric air.

OJ C 189, 13/07/2010