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    BCPC Highlights Confusion over EU Approvals of “Organic” Pesticides 2009-03-31

“Surprising though it may seem, there are over 25 chemical pesticides being used in ‘organic’ production,” says BCPC’s Chairman, Dr Colin Ruscoe. “And about 50% of these have now failed to gain EU approval (91/414 Annex 1 listing).”

Dr Colin Ruscoe,
Chairman of BCPC

Dr Colin Ruscoe

It had been anticipated that the review process would correct the anomaly that certain pesticides are acceptable in “organic” production – without a modern safety and environmental impact assessment – simply because they are “traditional” or “natural” products (i.e. derived from plants). But amongst the pesticides used in “organic” production, - that have now been approved under Annex 1 - are those containing copper.

“European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) findings have highlighted significant concerns about the copper-based compounds – risks to mammals, the potential to accumulate in fish and other aquatic organisms, toxicity to bees and earthworms and to non-target plants. The data gaps in these areas should have automatically prevented approval,” explains Dr Ruscoe.

Annex 1 listing means that Member States are now responsible for mitigating risks associated with the use of copper-containing compounds at national level. A number of Member States already restrict use of these products.

“The Commission’s rationale for the approval of copper-containing compounds is eagerly awaited. Perhaps it has waived its own rules in an attempt to support ‘organic’ production by continuing to make these ‘traditional’ pesticides available?” adds Dr Ruscoe. “There are many good reasons for supporting ‘organic’ production, but the same scientific criteria should be applied to all pesticides used in European agriculture, whether ‘organic’ or conventional.”

“Despite concerns raised by EFSA, the Commission’s approval of copper-containing compounds must clearly set a precedent for derogations to be given for other pesticides under its new legislation to be voted in at the forthcoming Council of Ministers. The Commission’s credibility will be hugely undermined if it does not show equal pragmatism when reviewing those pesticides, critical to conventional crop protection, that are now threatened by the new ‘cut-off’ criteria,” warns Dr Ruscoe.

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