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  • EU Bans UK's Most Used Pesticide

EU Bans UK's Most Used Pesticide

Apr 25 2019 Read 943 Times

The EU is expected to ban one of the most common pesticides in the world and the most widely-used product in the UK. Chlorothalonil has been in widespread use all over the globe since the 1960s and is often employed to safeguard crops such as barley, beans, peas, potato and wheat from the unwanted attentions of pests.

However, recent research has suggested a link between the use of chlorothalonil and a steep decline in bee populations on the continent and beyond. What’s more, it is also thought that if the chemical leaches into rivers and waterways, it could have a high impact on fish and amphibians living there, and a recent report failed to rule out deleterious effects on human DNA, as well.

The animal kingdom under attack

Insects, birds and other animals are facing a difficult enough battle in the face of climate change, with prolonged periods of dry weather and increased incidences of extreme phenomena threatening their life cycles, habitats and feeding habits. The chemicals that are widely used in pesticides, fungicides and herbicides only make their challenge even harder.

The consequences can be witnessed in the staggering drop in bee populations all over the world, with recent research suggesting bees can become addicted to pesticides. It’s thought that chlorothalonil could be particularly damaging to these vital cross-pollinators because of the harm it can do to their beneficial gut microbes, making them more vulnerable to the lethal parasite nosema.

Chlorothalonil on trial

In the light of recent studies, EU member states were asked to vote on whether they wished to prohibit its use in their countries. The consensus agreed that it should be outlawed and a formal ban is expected to be passed into law later this month or early in May, with it coming into force three weeks later.

“The [chlorothalonil ban] is based on Efsa’s scientific assessment which concluded that the approval criteria do not seem to be satisfied for a wide range of reasons,” explained a spokeswoman for the European Commission. “Great concerns are raised in relation to contamination of groundwater by metabolites of the substance.”  

Farmers up in arms

Given that the pesticide is the most widely-used substance in the UK, it’s little surprise that the National Farmers Union (NFU) have met the news with hostility. “We feel the European commission has been overly precautionary in making this decision and has failed to consider the particular importance of this [pesticide] in the control of critical fungal diseases and in managing disease resistance. As a result, we believe sectors of UK agricultural and horticultural production will be put at significant risk,” said Chris Hartfield of the NFU.

However, other reports suggest that farmers could significantly curb their use of pesticides without any significant effect on yields, while the UN recently denounced the idea that pesticides are a necessary evil in order to feed the world as “a myth”.

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