The UK has failed to ban 36 pesticides not permitted for use in the EU, as campaigners say it is becoming “Europe’s toxic child”.
Although ministers promised the UK would not water down EU-derived environmental standards after Brexit, there have been many differences since the country left the bloc.
Today, the country is failing to phase out pesticides that have been shown to be harmful to human health and the environment at the same pace as the EU, according to a study by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN).
Thirteen of the 36 chemicals are considered very hazardous pesticides under the UN definitions used to identify the most harmful substances. Four of them are highly toxic to bees, one contaminates water and one is highly toxic to aquatic organisms.
Thirty of the 36 were authorized for use in the EU when the UK left the UK on January 31, 2020, but have since been banned by the bloc, and the remaining six were approved by the UK government but not by the EU since then.
The British government has granted emergency authorization for the use of a neonicotinoid that is highly toxic to bees every year since Brexit. At that time, the EU banned the emergency use of these chemicals.
PAN UK’s Nick Mole said: “The UK is becoming Europe’s poster child. The government has repeatedly promised that our environmental standards will not fall after Brexit. And yet here we are, less than four years later, and we already see that our standards are far behind those of the EU. With the UK’s bees and other pollinators in decline and our waters more polluted than ever, now is the time to take action to protect nature. Instead, the government is choosing to expose Britain’s wildlife to a soup of ever more toxic chemicals.
Of these chemicals, 12 have been classified as carcinogens, nine have been found to be endocrine disruptors, which interfere with hormones and are linked to infertility, and eight are developmental or reproductive toxins that have also been linked to fertility problems. Two are cholinesterase inhibitors that can impair the respiratory system, and one is classified as extremely toxic.
The researchers said the discrepancy was partly due to a new UK licensing regime for these chemicals after the UK government decided to give all pesticides whose licenses were due to expire before December 2023 an automatic three-year extension. years. Previously, all pesticides had a maximum license of 15 years before needing to be re-approved.
PAN calls on the government to align standards with those of the EU in order to protect human health, the agricultural industry and the environment.
Mole said: “The emerging gap between UK and EU pesticide standards is extremely concerning for our human health and environmental protection, but also for the future of UK agriculture, as our standards are increasingly lagging behind those of our largest trading partner. British food exports containing pesticides that EU producers are not allowed to use are likely to be rejected. Given that the EU still accounts for around 60% of UK agricultural exports, the impact on farmers could be devastating.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: A Defra spokesperson said: “Very strict regulations only allow the sale and use of pesticides when the Scientific evaluation clearly shows that they do not harm people or pose unacceptable risks to the environment. The use of pesticides in the UK market must be authorized by our expert regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, or by Ministers, following these thorough scientific risk assessments. More broadly, the Health and Safety Executive develops a program to review our pesticide approvals and can take action to revise the approval at any time if it identifies serious problems.