The European Commission has cut the level of protection in EU pesticides rules following pressure from the US and Canada, minutes of a meeting reveal.
Current EU rules ban pesticides that contain hormone-harming chemicals called endocrine disruptors. But the latest Commission proposal would allow endocrine disruptors in pesticides if the risk of exposure to humans is negligible, instead of only allowing approval if exposure to humans is negligible.
ClientEarth lawyer Laurens Ankersmit said: “The Commission’s willingness to address Canadian trade concerns is a perfect example of the dangers of so-called regulatory cooperation in the EU-Canada trade deal.
“CETA will institutionalise and legitimise governmental lobbying at the expense of European citizens. The Canadian Government will have early and privileged access to EU decision-makers.”
ClientEarth lawyer Vito Buonsante says “The Commission claims that the change in how to manage endocrine disruptors was aimed to increase protection for EU citizens. But it turns out they were increasing satisfaction for trade partners instead.”
The difference between exposure and risk goes well beyond semantics. It affects the way the risk of these chemicals – which cause infertility and developmental problems in children – is managed.
Negligible exposure derogations allow only uses that are well controlled, such as in a closed system.
“Negligible risk” allows humans and the environment to be exposed to endocrine disruptors without clear limits.
The Commission is also proposing higher limits for the amount of endocrine disrupting chemical residues on food.
This will make it easier for countries with weaker pesticides protection – like Canada and the United States – to import food into the EU. This undermines health protection for Europeans.
Minutes of a meeting between EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Andriukaitis and the Canadian and United States ambassadors reveal that the Commission has lowered the levels of protection to address issues raised by its trade partners. The minutes were obtained after Dutch journalist Vincent Harmsen made a freedom of information request.
The Canadian ambassador ‘urged the Commission not to apply the hazard-based approach alone’. The Commission in response said that the Commission’s ‘ambitious proposal address[es] the concerns expressed by the Ambassadors’.
The Commission and Canada’s behaviour heightens serious concerns over the potential of the envisaged Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada to lower the levels of environmental protection and food safety in Europe.
CETA is not just an agreement about tariffs. It also seeks to address ‘behind the border’ trade barriers caused by food safety and environmental rules. CETA’s regulatory cooperation chapter will make it more likely that EU regulations are weakened to fit with those of trade partners with worse environmental protection laws.