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June 2018

PESTICIDE NEWS The Journal of Pesticide Action Network UK

An international perspective on the health and environmental effects of pesticides

A BIG WIN FOR POLLINATORS AS NEONICOTINOIDS ARE BANNED ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: • Campaigning for a Pesticide-Free London • Who's to 'blame' for pesticide poisonings? • Post-Brexit trade deals and pesticide standards

ISSN 2514-5770

PESTICIDE-FREE LONDON In April, we launched our Pesticide-Free London campaign. The campaign mobilised Londoners to contact their candidates ahead of city-wide local council elections on 3rd May and ask them to take the ‘Pesticide-Free London pledge’.

pesticide use in their borough. They committed to take at least two of a range of actions including trialling nonchemical alternatives, organising a full council debate on banning pesticides and planting pesticide-free urban, wildflower meadows to create a haven for bees and other wildlife. In return, PAN UK offered to provide ongoing assistance, information and bespoke advice as they end pesticideuse.

Building on the victory of 2016 when Hammersmith & Fulham became the first London borough to ban pesticides, the local elections presented a unique opportunity to encourage other boroughs to follow suit and a chance to make London the first major UK city to go pesticide-free. Concerned voters sent more than 8,000 emails to their local candidates asking them to pledge to make their borough pesticide-free if elected. Activists all over London got involved, the campaign was featured in local media and the momentum started to build.

The election campaign has been a huge success, but this is just the beginning. Our job is to turn these pledges into lasting change on the ground. As a first step, we are running a practical workshop for London-based councillors and council officers on 29th June to explore the practicalities of how to end pesticide use in their boroughs. We will reach out to all those that took the pledge to ensure they keep their promise to protect the local residents they represent, and the natural environment, from the harmful effects of toxic pesticides.

Sure enough, by the middle of April, the pledges started rolling in - first in a trickle, but they soon became a flood. By election day, almost 400 candidates had pledged. Labour led the way with the Greens in close second. Bringing up the rear were the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats but even they had more than sixty of their candidates take the pledge. Pledgers covered thirty of London’s thirtytwo borough councils. In some boroughs, such as RichmondUpon-Thames, every single councillor elected had t a ke n the pledge. Pledgers signed up to take action to severely restrict, and ideally ban,

If you would like to get involved in the London campaign please email us on 2


If you live in London please take our 1 MINUTE ONLINE ACTION and contact your local councillors. Ask them to attend our workshop on 29th June to find out more about safe alternatives to urban pesticides.

TAKE ACTION Or visit http://www.pan-uk.org/pesticide-free-london/



THREE TOXIC PESTICIDES BANNED IN THE EU The European Commission and EU Member States took the long awaited decision to ban the use of three bee toxic neonicotinoids across the EU on 27th April 2018.

chemicals were introduced to safeguard the health of the environment.” PAN UK also welcomes the commitment by the UK government to retain the ban on neonicotinoids after Brexit. It signifies a serious change in position from Defra who had, until last year, been opposed to the ban. We hope that this is an indicator that the UK will now take seriously the harmful effects that agricultural pesticide use can, and does, have on the environment and deliver on its promise of a greener agricultural system in the UK post-Brexit.

After spending more than a decade warning of the dangers these pesticides pose to bees, PAN UK is delighted that these damaging chemicals have finally been taken out of use throughout the European Union. The new restrictions amount to an almost complete ban as the three neonicotinoids in question – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – are no longer allowed to be used on any crop that is grown outdoors. The only permitted use is for plants that are grown within a permanent greenhouse and spend their entire life-cycle, from germination to harvest, inside.

In what can only be described as a bad few weeks for the pesticide industry the European Court of Justice also ruled that the 2013 imposition of a partial ban on the three neonicotinoids by the European Commission was lawful. Syngenta and Bayer, neonicotinoid manufacturers, had brought the case against the Commission, claiming that the decision to implement the ban was not justified. They also sought compensation for loss of sales.

It is unfortunate that it has taken so long for this decision to be made. As PAN UK Trustee Professor Dave Goulson of Sussex University says, “There is now a mountain of scientific evidence implicating neonicotinoids as a driver of the decline of bees and other wild insects. If allowed to continue, these declines will have dire consequences for all of life on Earth. It is high time that further restrictions on these

In its ruling, the European Court of Justice said that the EU had correctly applied the precautionary principle, which allows regulators to restrict a product's use even when conclusive evidence is lacking. 4



Pesticide Colour Codes Pesticide labels in most LMIC include a colour code stripe at the bottom of the label to indicate the acute toxicity of the formulation (in some countries just the active ingredient) according to WHO’s hazard classification of pesticides.2 When asked what these colour codes mean and to put them in order from most to least toxic, the majority are unable to get the correct order (for South Africa – red, yellow, blue and green).3,4 Firstly, most people are unaware this colour code exists, unless trained they have no idea what it means and do not know what to do even if they know it refers to acute toxicity.

Many people blame farmers and farm workers, particularly in Low- and MiddleIncome Countries (LMIC) for the poisoning of themselves, others and the environment by pesticides. The common phrase is that these end-users “misuse” pesticides which lead to these poisonings. An article, published in the Journal Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health unpacks the concept of “misuse” and argues that for someone to intentionally use pesticides, other than as directed on the label, five key factors all need to be fulfilled.1 The pesticide label is often the only use and risk communication mechanism available to LMIC end-users. For the pesticide label to be an effective risk communication tool, the following five factors must be achieved simultaneously:

These codes are a useful tool for encouraging end-users to start with a less acutely toxic product if the choice exists. They are a good training tool for why personal protective equipment must be worn. Unfortunately, when trained on these codes, many farmers interpret this to mean the “better” product is the more toxic one.

1. Access to the label (i.e., on the container and readable font size). 2. Appropriate language of the end-user. 3. Adequate literacy level for reading in the label language. 4. Adequate literacy level for comprehending the label information. 5. Access to equipment and facilities required to implement the label instructions and precautions.

Who is responsible for conducting this training and how can end-users comprehend this information without training?

Almost all of these factors are not achievable in LMIC and the label is, therefore, more useful in protecting industry from liability than protecting the end-user or the environment from harm. “Misuse”, although not defined, is used extensively by industry, government officials and in publications, but given these five factors are not attainable, “misuse” cannot occur. 5


The article highlights several barriers to achieving these five factors and label effectiveness in LMIC, which include cultural and context issues (e.g., a pesticide culture viewing pesticides positively), the right-toknow, and the right-to-comprehend.5,6

Given that it is virtually impossible for LMIC end-users to achieve all five factors for making the pesticide label an effective risk communication tool, the article offers several risk reduction measures that can be adopted. While training of farmers and farm workers is crucial, it is also costly, lacking standardization, and time consuming to administer to millions of small-scale farmers in LMIC. So as a first step, highly hazardous pesticides should be replaced with lower toxic alternatives and pest control strategies.8,9

Of concern is the issue of end-users’ right-tocomprehend the information on a pesticide label. Comprehension skills required are extensive and include numeracy skills, technical literacy, visual literacy, and health literacy.7 Even where there is access to the label (right-to-know) and the individual can read (or has the label read to them) few users are equipped to interpret the information as scientifically intended. Just as the rightto-know is legislated for in many countries, the right-to-comprehend should also be legislated. Industry should also play a larger role in providing information with each product sold on how to read the label and how to comprehend the information.

It is clear that “misuse” is seldom the cause of pesticide poisoning in LMIC; “unintentional” use should instead be referred to. Regulators should be aware that relying on pesticide labels alone is an ineffective mechanism to prevent poisoning and more legislative control of highly hazardous pesticides is needed to reduce the negative impacts of unintended uses.

TEST YOURSELF The chemical labels below are designed for low-literate populations:

1. What is the scientifically intended meaning of this image? 2. What safety behaviours should be implemented when this symbol is on a chemical label/container?

Wash after use

1. How long must a person wash their hands for when they see this symbol? 2. When must they wash their hands (be specific)? 3. Where must they wash their hands? 4. Must they only use tap water?



The symbol below is explained as follows:

Example of text found on South African pesticide labels: Although this remedy has been extensively tested under a large variety of conditions the registration holder does not warrant that it will be efficacious under all conditions because the action and effect thereof may be affected by factors such as abnormal climatic and storage conditions; quality of dilution water; compatibility with other substances not indicated on the label and the occurrence of resistance of the pest against the remedy concerned as well as by the method, time and accuracy of application. The registration holder furthermore does not accept responsibility for damage to drops, vegetation, the environment or harm to man or animal or for lack of performance of the remedy concerned due to failure of the user to follow the label instructions or to the occurrence of conditions which could not have been foreseen in terms of the registration. Consult the supplier or registration holder in the event of any uncertainty.

Many farmers and farm workers will not understand the liability component of this text. Professor Hanna-Andrea Rother is Head of Environmental Health Division, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. This open access article can be downloaded at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468584417300429

References Andrade-Rivas, F. & Rother, H.-A. Chemical exposure reduction: Factors impacting on South African herbicide sprayers’ personal protective equipment compliance and high risk work practices. Environ. Res. 142, (2015).



World Health Organization. The Who Recommended Classification of Pesticides By Hazard and Guidelines To Classification 2009. World Heal. Organ. 1–60 (2010). doi:ISBN 978 92 4 154796 3


Rother, H.-A. Pesticide Labels: Protecting Liability or Health? – Unpacking “misuse” of pesticides. Curr. Opin. Environ. Sci. Heal. 4, 10–15 (2018). 2

Rother, H.-A. Communicating pesticide neurotoxicity research findings and risks to decision-makers and the public. Neurotoxicology (2014). doi:10.1016/j. neuro.2014.03.001

Rother, H.-A. South African farm workers’ interpretation of risk assessment data expressed as pictograms on pesticide labels. Environ. Res. 108, (2008). 3

Chowdhury, F. R. et al. Bans of WHO Class I Pesticides in Bangladesh-suicide prevention without hampering agricultural output. Int. J. Epidemiol. 47, 175–184 (2018). 8

Waichman, A. V., Eve, E. & da Silva Nina, N. C. Do farmers understand the information displayed on pesticide product labels? A key question to reduce pesticides exposure and risk of poisoning in the Brazilian Amazon. Crop Prot. 26, 576–583 4

FAO and WHO. Guidelines on highly hazardous pesticides. (2016). 9

Rother, H.-A. Challenges in Pesticide Risk Communication. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences (Elsevier Inc., 2013). doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.02150-3 5




yet unsigned) EU-US trade deal known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP.

The UK news is awash with tales of post-Brexit trade deals and the possible implications for ordinary people. Much of the discussion has focused on the threats a future trade deal with the US could pose to the UK’s food standards. Products such as chlorinated-chicken and hormone-fed beef are currently banned in the UK under EU regulations but could soon end up on our supermarket shelves thanks to a US trade deal.

In 2015, the Center for International Environmental Law published an excellent report, ‘Lowest Common Denominator’, which examined how a proposed EUUS trade deal could weaken European standards of protection. The report analyses recommendations from pesticide industry lobby groups – CropLife America (CPA) and the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) – to European and US negotiators. It concludes that, if followed, these recommendations would help to lower environmental and health standards, undermine democratic processes, and allow the use of toxic substances that the EU has explicitly committed to eliminating.

Unfortunately, the impact that postBrexit trade deals could have on food standards is likely to go well beyond the meat industry. As a member of the EU, the UK has the strongest pesticide regime in the world which includes strict criteria for which chemicals can be used and how. In comparison, pesticide regulations in the US are significantly weaker. As just one example of many, based on figures from 2017, the total number of active substances that can be legally used in the US is almost three times higher than the EU currently allows (roughly 1,430 vs 486). When the time comes to sit down around the negotiating table, the US government and agrochemical industry will be pushing for the UK to relax its laws in order to open up a new market for American pesticide manufacturers and agricultural produce. Before this happens, it’s vital that we look to lessons from previous trade negotiations to make sure that our strong standards and protections are maintained. In particular, there is much to be learned from the recent negotiations over the (as 8


Here is a summary of the threats posed by industry recommendations:

• Using the guise of “regulatory cooperation” to attack the precautionary principle which allows authorities to take action to reduce risks from chemicals if the possibility of harmful effects on health is identified, but scientific uncertainty exists.

• Weaken EU laws to the use of carcinogens and other substances of very high concern as pesticides, posing a health hazard to workers, consumers, and communities;

• Attempting to reduce EU requirements for authorisation of active substances. Under US pesticide legislation, “conditional” temporary registrations allow a new pesticide to be placed on the market for an unspecified amount of time while the manufacturer generates the requisite data for registration. As of October 2012, more than 65% of active pesticide products in the US were conditionally registered, meaning they did not have adequate information for a complete risk assessment when allowed for use. Conditional approval is not permitted in the EU.

• Allow the import of food from the US with higher levels of toxic pesticides; • Weaken, slow or stop efforts to regulate endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals; • Obstruct efforts to save bee populations, risking irrevocable damage to the quality and quantity of our food supply; • Block access to information that is vital to developing non-toxic alternatives; • Interfere with the democratic process by usurping the regulatory authority of US States and EU Member States;

• Advocating for an increase in the amount of pesticides the EU allows on food through the “significant harmonization” of processes setting limits for the amount of pesticide residue that can legally remain in or on food after treatment (knows as ‘MRLs’ in the EU and ‘tolerances’ in the US). The US permits higher levels of pesticide residues on food sold to consumers relative to the EU.

• Install a “regulatory ceiling” hampering global pesticide regulation. Specifically, the report found that the pesticide industry was… • Attempting to manipulate trade negotiations to compel the EU into lowering their progressive environmental health and food safety legislation with little consideration for environmental or health consequences.

• Trying to introduce “exclusive use” periods during which only the provider of data (which is generally the pesticide manufacturer) may use or gain access to that information for the purpose of supporting additional studies or registrations, effectively blocking public access to data and information that could illustrate risks and lead to the development and commercialization of safer alternatives to hazardous pesticides.

• Seeking to use the trade negotiations and their lack of transparency to classify important regulatory differences between the US and EU as non-tariff trade barriers or “trade irritants”; and to eliminate them by aligning standards of protection down to those least protective of human health and the environment. 8 9


• Arguing for the development of a common framework to shelter ‘’confidential business information” from public and scientific peer review. In the US, pesticide manufacturers may claim certain data as protected “trade secrets,” including manufacturing processes; methods of testing, detecting, or measuring inert substances; and the identity or percentage of inert ingredients (despite the fact they can comprise up to 99% of a product).

PAN UK strongly recommends that the chemicals sector, including pesticides, is excluded from all post-Brexit trade deals. It’s vital that regulatory authorities preserve not just the right, but also the power to go above and beyond the status quo and applicable international standards, to continually strive for higher levels of consumer and environmental protection from toxic pesticides.

As part of our Brexit campaign we will • Pushing for requirements for trade impact continue to work on UK trade issues and analyses to be conducted for all relevant keep you updated. regulatory measures. Requiring complex trade analyses will only serve to extend For more information on our an already lengthy regulatory process, Brexit work visit: and create an inherent bias against either http://www.pan-uk.org/uk-policy the US or EU from taking action alone for stronger levels of protection.




While the spread of on-farm agroecological practices are an important part of our transition to better food and farming systems, civil society organizations in Rome urged attendees to embrace a broader understanding of agroecology that encompasses its political, social and cultural dimensions and is grounded in principles of equity, human rights and food sovereignty. In particular, PAN called for the dismantling of the political and economic structures that perpetuate our dependence on chemicalintensive agriculture.

In early April, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International participated in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) second International Symposium on Agroecology in Rome. From nine countries and five regions — including North America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, and Latin America — PAN leaders highlighted the need to transition from chemical-intensive practices to just, thriving and resilient food systems around the world.

Find the full blog post by PAN North America at: http://www.panna.org/blog/pan-romeagroecology-future

The symposium focused primarily on the need to spread and scale agroecological practices to meet the FAO’s Sustainable Development Goals.




UNICEF has released a new discussion paper to engage with various stakeholders to improve global pesticide regulations to support children’s rights. Some key recommendations to stakeholders include: • exploring agroecology as a method for more sustainable food production as well as to ban highly hazardous pesticides to address the growing issue that impact young children in rural areas; • adopting the precautionary principle for pesticide registration; • strengthening core business policies of pesticides companies ; and • for states and governments to develop more robust national legislations.

In the last six years, PAN Asia Pacific’s Protect Our Children (POC) Watch (an initiative by PANAP and partners to closely monitor pesticide poisoning cases among children all over the world) has documented 1,307 children poisoned by pesticides. Since 2017 alone, 539 children were poisoned by pesticides wherein 30 died. While the figures are not a comprehensive record of pesticide poisoning among children, the numbers are still shocking. Moreover, it also does not take into account those affected by the long-term and chronic effects of pesticides.

Find further information and the full blog post by PAN Asia Pacific at: h t t p s : //p a n a p. n e t /2 0 1 8/0 3 / governments-urged-adopt-new-unicefrecommendations-on-children-andpesticides/

Children are especially vulnerable to the impacts of pesticides. They face far bigger risk of exposure than adults and are more in danger of taking in pesticide residues in food and water. Due to growing concerns of how pesticides are impacting children,



Profile for PAN UK

Pesticide News - Issue 113  

June 2018

Pesticide News - Issue 113  

June 2018

Profile for pan-uk