Half of the European Union's land is farmed. This fact alone highlights the importance of farming for the EU's natural environment, the EU said banning 22 pesticides under a law which has just been passed. Research into die-offs of bees was also mooted.
The EU measure was voted in by an overwhelming majority today - but was vehemently opposed by the UK government. One of the pesticides being banned is Linuron, which the EU says is a 'hormone-disruptive substance which could cancer and disrupt the blood flow'.see
Permits for 22 substances known to cause cancer, harm human reproduction or damage the hormonal system will not be renewed under the new law. Exceptions will be made only for cases where there is no alternative product, or where the harvest is seriously threatened as a result of the ban.
Most of the pesticides concerned are produced by German chemical industry giants Bayer or BASF, and include Amitrol, Ioxynil, Tepraloxydim, Epoxiconazole, Iprodion, Metconazole, Tebuconazole and Thiacloprid.
It won't happen overnight: two of the fungicides – Carbendazim and Dinocap – will be banned already in 2009, but permits for other harmful substances will only run out in 2018.
“It’s a victory for the Greens and for the environmentalists,” said Monica Frassoni, Vice President of the European Green Party. The text has been heralded by ecologists as one of the most restrictive legislative documents in the world on the subject of pesticides.
Tighter rules will be applied as of 2009 in the 27 EU member states.
The law was just agreed on, shortly after the EU passed a law on the common practice of crop-dusting – an aerial application of pesticides.
Exemptions to this law, which takes account of the high risk of spray drift to populated areas or sensitive ecological zones, are to be examined case by case.
The use of pesticides will also be banned in parks, public gardens, sports grounds and playgrounds.
Now the European Commission is going one step further: examining the impact of pesticides on the mortality rate of bees, which stands at 30 per cent in the EU.
The British however claim that there is 'no proof' that these pesticides, used for many years, are in the least bit 'dangerous'. They warn that without pesticides, the farmers will not be able to produce as much as they did before.
However, the EU says that that there is overwhelming scientific evidence that the banned pesticides pose a threat not only to humans, but also to many of the EU's richest wildlife and to the future productivity of the farm soil all across the continent.
'Farming, a fundamental asset of European culture, plays an essential role in maintaining the environment in a healthy state,' the EU press release states.
The EU has already outlawed genetically modified organisms since the early 1990s and expanded this in 2001 by also banning any products made from GM-organisms.
However, Pieter de Pous of the European Environment Bureau said the evidence is overwhelming, that without these measures, long-term European farm production will drop.
"The measures are also aimed at improving the quality of soil on European farms.
"The long-run productivity of farm production is the most important factor, and while the farming sector says that 'they can look after their own soil and don't need any new laws', this was also something which was said by the banking sector until its collapse just recently.'
He warned that the quality of the farming soil must be improved, and banning pesticides is one important way of doing this. 'Europe's long-term agricultural productivity will decline steadily if we don't do this,' he warned, noting:"We are already seeing the ecological crisis in the steady deterioration of the farm-soil quality, the organic matter content on European farms, which has been going down in quality and thus also been reduced in fertility for the past 25 years"