News 17.04.2020

People before profits: Stop the export of banned pesticides!

  • Transparency and food safety
Shutterstock / Natalija Sahraj

foodwatch urges Bayer-Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta to immediately stop production, sale and export of pesticides that are banned in the EU. We also call on the EU to introduce stronger regulation on residues of banned pesticides on imported food.

The three largest pesticide companies in Europe, Bayer-Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta, are doing everything in their power to continue to produce, sell and export highly toxic pesticides which are prohibited in the EU due to their harmful effects on humans and the environment. These hazardous substances are being exported to third countries, putting people at a huge risk: a gross violation of human rights! Through the import of food which contain residues of these harmful substances, they are also ending up back on the plates of EU consumers. By not introducing stronger regulation against residues of these banned pesticides, the EU is failing to protect European consumers. 

Email action to stop the production and export of EU-banned pesticides

foodwatch calls on the three European pesticide giants to immediately stop the production, sale and export of pesticides banned in the EU. These substances are carcinogenic, mutagenic, endocrine disrupting, neurotoxic and reduce fertility.  The petition demands to start 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.

Profits before human rights

Bayer-Monsanto, BASF  and Syngenta are making huge profits from exporting pesticides that are banned in the European Union. The EU prohibits the use of these pesticides within its Member States but does not prohibit their production for export. By selling these toxic products in third countries, 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. Countless people die every year due to poisoning from pesticides. The major part of these deaths occur in the Global South. This has to stop now!
Dr. Thilo Bode Director of foodwatch International

The boomerang effect

Residues of these dangerous pesticides re-enter the European Union on food imports, such as fruit and vegetables. That’s how these prohibited substances also end up on the plates of European consumers, with all the consequences to health that they bring. These pesticides are banned as they can be carcinogenic, mutagenic, hormone disrupting, neurotoxic and/or reduce fertility.

Major gaps in EU regulation against banned pesticides

foodwatch criticises 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 assessment 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 recipient 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. The EU must be ashamed of their double standards! Where are the legislators who stand up to these lobbyists and protect human rights, consumer rights and the environment around the world?
Dr. Thilo Bode Director of foodwatch International

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.