Press Release 17.04.2020

foodwatch urges Bayer-Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta to immediately stop production and export of pesticides that are banned in the EU – Stricter EU regulation needed

  • Transparency and food safety

Amsterdam/Berlin/Brussels/Paris, 17 April 2020. The international consumer organisation foodwatch has called on the three largest pesticide companies in Europe to stop producing and exporting pesticides which are unauthorised in the EU. Bayer-Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta continue selling these harmful substances all over the world, mainly to countries in the Global South. These practices contribute to the massive damage caused by harmful pesticides that kill and harm countless people every year. Residues of these dangerous pesticides remain present on agricultural products, such as fruits and vegetables, which are then imported back into the European Union. Through this “pesticide boomerang” the banned substances are also ending up on people’s plates in Europe, criticised foodwatch. 

The consumer organisation has launched a new international petition (link below) to urge the companies concerned to immediately stop the production, sale and export of these pesticides. They are carcinogenic, mutagenic, endocrine disrupting, neurotoxic and reduce fertility. The petition demands to start immediately with the substances that are banned in the EU because they are clearly proven to be toxic for health and the environment. Furthermore, the petition calls for the pesticide companies to stop opposing stronger EU regulation in this area through their aggressive lobbying.

Bayer-Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta, who together produce half of the total pesticides registered in Europe, are making huge profits from exporting pesticides that are banned in the European Union. By encouraging farmers in the Global South to use these toxic products, the three companies bear a heavy responsibility. According to the United Nations, subjecting individuals to toxins known to cause major health damage or fatality is a human rights violation. Bayer-Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta are committing violations of human rights for their own profits.

“European pesticide giants are making huge profits at the cost of human rights. This has to stop now!” said Thilo Bode, Director of foodwatch International. The international food watchdog criticises the major gaps and loopholes in the EU regulation on pesticides (EU 1107/2009). In this regulation, it is not forbidden for European companies to produce and export toxic substances that are banned within the EU. Even pesticides which have an EU risk assessments concluding “immediate concerns for human health or animal health or the environment” can legally be sold to non-EU-countries.

The regulation only requires exporting companies to inform the authorities in importing countries of imminent imports of dangerous industrial chemicals or pesticides.

France has recently taken the initiative to ban the production and export of these pesticides which are forbidden in the EU and the legislation will come into force in 2022.  However, all attempts to push for the regulation at EU level were blocked under the pressure of the pesticides lobby – one arm of which is the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) which in 2017 had the largest annual lobbying budget in Brussels – an enormous 12 million EUR.

“The regulation of pesticides in the EU is clearly inadequate for protecting people and the environment from the dangers they cause,” said Thilo Bode from foodwatch. “The EU must be ashamed of their double standards! Banning these hazardous substances in the EU and then allowing their sale and export to third countries is scandalous. Where are the legislators who can stand up to these lobbyists and protect human rights, consumer rights and the environment around the world? When these pesticides are exported to third countries, the EU legislators have responsibility to the recipient countries – they cannot allow the export of hazardous substances and get away with it.”

foodwatch international will continue to push for stricter European regulation on this issue. Today, however, foodwatch has launched a petition against the three pesticide giants Bayer-Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta calling on them to take responsibility. Everybody can sign the petition:

Update 21 April 2020: In an earlier version of this page, we mentioned that “an estimated 200,000 deaths from acute poisoning due to pesticides are estimated to occur annually”. This figure, although referred to in an official UN document of 2017, is disputed as it is based on a study from the 1980s. There are no recent figures on this subject. Bayer, BASF and other critics seek to fuel controversy over this figure as a diversionary tactic. We do not want to give our opponents the opportunity to distract attention from the real problem. They are responsible for the considerable damage to our health and to the environment caused by the use of their pesticides. They continue to make profit from the sale and export of pesticides which are banned in the EU because of their dangerous levels of toxicity. For this reason foodwatch has decided to delete the reference to the “estimated 200,000 deaths from acute poisoning due to pesticides per year” on this page and to use the named figure only with the respective background. Unfortunately, the current data on deaths caused by pesticides is insufficient and the figures vary. But the fact that these toxic pesticides cause severe damage to health and the environment is indisputable. It is unacceptable that these companies remain silent about their responsibilities. It is high time they took their responsibility and stop producing, selling and exporting dangerous pesticides, banned in the EU, to other continents.