Mirror measures on pesticides affect only half of the neonicotinoids banned in Europe. Loopholes in current EU regulation also allow for the continued export of banned pesticides as well as the import of products grown using them, according to a new joint analysis by the Veblen Institute, the European Environmental Bureau and the Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme.
Following the adoption of EU regulation containing a mirror measure on pesticides for environmental reasons in February 2023 – the first of its kind – a new report has been published that assesses the impact of this regulation as well as current law and puts forward recommendations to prevent the import of products treated with pesticides prohibited in the EU.
The report found that, although a step in the right direction, the scope and robustness of the regulation should be strengthened for the following reasons:
- The EU continues to produce and export the same pesticides that it has banned within its own territory and that it plans to prohibit for imported products.
- Only two of the four neonicotinoids banned in Europe are affected by the mirror measure.
- The maximum residue limit (MRL) approach has a number of shortcomings.
- The European regulation does not provide for an end to the derogations granted by Member States for the use of banned neonicotinoids.
- Uncertainties about the compatibility of the regulation with WTO law and trade agreements.
Faustine Bas-Defossez, Director of Nature, Health and Environment at the European Environmental Bureau, said:
"By allowing for the continued export of neonicotinoid pesticides – which the EU have deemed too toxic for its own territory – to third countries the EU is not only giving a green light for businesses to continue with ethically unjustifiable practices, but they are also leaving the door open for these very same pesticides to return to Europe in our food imports."
"Fixing this is not only a question of ethic coherence, it is also essential for the effectiveness of the Green Deal as a whole and the success of the much-needed 50% cut in pesticide use within the EU by 2030."
The EU-MERCOSUR agreement risks exacerbating the problem
The report emphasises the risk posed by the EU-MERCOSUR agreement, as it encourages the export of banned pesticides from Europe to Mercosur countries as well as imports of agricultural products treated with these banned products, which will ultimately end up on European plates.
How to achieve truly effective environmental mirror measures
The report contains a number of recommendations for creating truly effective environmental mirror measures, including:
- Immediately lowering MRLs to the detection threshold for banned or unapproved neonicotinoids, and for all extremely hazardous pesticides, by extending the regulation to include all agricultural production, including crops intended for animal feed, energy or ornamental uses.
- Develop a total ban on the most hazardous pesticides. As far as the technical feasibility of such a ban is concerned, the EU could draw inspiration from the control and traceability mechanisms it has already put in place for prohibited growth hormones in imported animal products and for organic farming products.
The report also recommends that, in order to be consistent with WTO rules, the European Commission puts an end to existing double standards by banning:
- the manufacture, storage, transport and export of substances prohibited by the EU.
- derogations granted by Member States for these prohibited substances, in line with the recent ruling of the CJEU, giving priority to incentives for the adoption of more sustainable agricultural practices