EU Firms Exporting Toxic Banned Pesticide To Global South
380 tonnes of illegal chlorpyrifos insecticides were exported by European companies in the second half of last year, according to Unearthed and Public Eye, a Swiss NGO.
A toxic pesticide that has been banned in Europe due to its associations with brain damage in children and unborn children is being exported by European businesses to developing nations in large quantities.
380 tonnes of illegal chlorpyrifos insecticides were exported by European companies in the second half of last year, according to Unearthed and Public Eye, a Swiss NGO. The same businesses anticipate shipping comparable volumes this year.
The investigation reveals that Europe has continued to export chlorpyrifos even after the EU forbade its use in that year. Scientific proof that this “organophosphate” pesticide resulted in “unfavourable neurodevelopmental outcomes in children” led to its ban. Research has connected the chemical’s prenatal exposure to developmental delays, autism, and IQ decline.
Nearly all of Europe’s 2022 chemical exports were going to low- or middle-income countries (LMICs). It is unfair to poor nations that many people’s health must still be put at risk in order to keep a few people’s businesses afloat.
Algeria, Tunisia, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Costa Rica were the main travel destinations. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the risks associated with using highly hazardous pesticides in LMICs are “almost without exception” much higher than they would be in wealthy nations.
According to Fernando Ramrez Muoz, a professor at Costa Rica’s Regional Institute of Toxic Substance Studies, “it is not fair to poor countries that the health of many should continue to be compromised in order to maintain the business of a few.” “Chlorpyrifos is prohibited in the EU due to facts that have been established, but it seems that these facts do not hold true in low-income countries.”
Following years of campaigning by health and environmental organisations, the EU banned chlorpyrifos in 2020. However, companies that produce pesticides are able to export them to nations where their use is still legal thanks to gaps in European legislation.
The European Commission (EC) has stated that it will present proposals this year to put an end to this practise, but it is unclear when the consultation process will start, what the new law’s parameters will be, and whether it will be implemented.
An important victory for the future health of children and future generations was the EU-wide ban on chlorpyrifos. The EU’s global commitments to health and environmental protection are not country-specific, according to Natacha Cingotti, health and chemicals lead at the Health and Environment Alliance, and people, particularly vulnerable groups, deserve the same level of protection.
The EU reduced the highest “limit of analytical determination” of residue that could be found on imported food to the lowest level. This prohibited the importation into the EU of any food with traces of the banned pesticide that could be detected.
Semia Gharbi, a Tunisian environmental science expert, reported that a shipment of Tunisian oranges was rejected and sent back by the EU due to chlorpyrifos residues. This was due to Pyrical 480, an insecticide with a chlorine basis that was exported from Belgium by Arysta LifeScience Benelux, and has Tunisia as its second-largest market.
Gharbi argued that the EU’s practise of exporting illegal pesticides should be outlawed because it fits the definition of colonialism. In 2020, the EC pledged to present legislative proposals this year to make sure that chemicals banned in the EU were not manufactured or exported.
Environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius recently wrote to civil society groups assuring them that the Commission was “fully committed” to doing this and planned to present a proposal to the European Parliament and Council in the course of 2023.
Belgium supports an EU ban on the export of pesticides that have been outlawed and is working to enact a national ban.
Campaigners worry that the proposal may come too late to affect a change in the law before the upcoming European parliamentary elections in 2024 due to the plan’s fierce opposition from the chemical lobby.
A public consultation on the plan was supposed to begin in the first quarter of 2023, but it has not yet been launched. Khattabi told Unearthed and Public Eye that she intended to update the royal decree during the next stage of the legislative process. In about six months, the decree is expected to go into effect.
Nevertheless, a recent investigation by Unearthed and Public Eye into a comparable ban in France discovered that while export restrictions imposed by individual EU member states have an impact, they also have limitations. In the absence of an EU-wide ban, multinational pesticide companies can adapt to national bans by shifting their export trade to subsidiaries in other member states.
The EU’s “prior informed consent” (PIC) regulation is one of the few constraints currently imposed on exporters of banned pesticides from Europe. According to these regulations, exporting nations must notify importing nations in advance if they intend to send them pesticides that are banned or heavily restricted on their own farms.
This means that a company must create an “export notification” document each time it wants to ship a pesticide that is banned and send it to the authorities in the receiving nation. On July 1, 2022, chlorpyrifos became subject to these regulations.
Unearthed and Public Eye obtained every export notification issued for chlorpyrifos shipments in 2022, and most of those issued so far this current year. These documents provide the most precise paper trail available for the EU’s continued trade in this hazardous banned pesticide.
Belgium was by far Europe’s biggest exporter, with 349 tonnes of exports destined for 16 countries, including Algeria, Tunisia, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, and Costa Rica. UPL has already issued plans to ship another 313 tonnes in 2023, with Serbia included in the list of destinations.
UPL is compliant with all Belgian, EU, and international laws and regulations, while Denmark is also manufacturing and exporting chlorpyrifos-based insecticides. In 2022, Cheminova notified the authorities of 33.2 tonnes of such exports, of which 2 tonnes were destined for Lebanon and the remaining 31.2 tonnes were for Pakistan.
Another 55 tonnes of shipments to Pakistan have been reported by Cheminova. Dust from farms there poses a “high health risk” due to the widespread overuse of pesticides like chlorpyrifos and other organophosphates, which is linked to an increased risk of metabolic disorder.
This EU-produced pesticide, which has been banned in the US and Denmark, harms children’s cognitive development. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s standards, it is not an HHP and is regarded as safe when used in accordance with label instructions, the spokesperson for FMC claimed.
Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide that FMC exports from Denmark, with a concentration of 30–44% in the insecticides it exports. Philippe Grandjean, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark, uncovered problems with industry-funded toxicology that had been used to support its authorization in Europe and warned that it harms the cognitive skills of future children.
He argued that we need to protect as much as possible the intelligence of future children, as they will need to generate smart solutions to the damage we have caused.
To obtain each export notification issued up to that point for goods containing chlorpyrifos, Unearthed and Public Eye submitted freedom of information requests to the Belgian government and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
These documents, which state the estimated amount to be exported, are issued to the authorities in the importing nation prior to shipment. They are the most accurate documentation of the export of prohibited pesticides from the EU, with a sole focus on exports of prohibited pesticides for “plant protection use” in the importing nations. The analysis excluded all exports for biocidal or other non-agricultural purposes.