Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from the Chairman to Lord Rooker, Minister of State for Sustainable Farming and Food, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  Sub-Committee D (Environment and Agriculture) has considered these proposals together with your Explanatory Memorandum.

  We support the stance which the Government is proposing to take—that six of the eight pesticides in question should be cleared for use on an unrestricted basis but that the remaining two (Azinphos-methyl and methamidophos) should not be cleared for use at all on the grounds that their safety has not been satisfactorily demonstrated. We note also your Department's view that further significant changes along the lines you are proposing will be difficult, and perhaps impossible, to secure and that, if the Council cannot reach agreement, the Commission's view will prevail as the default position.

  Nonetheless, we are concerned over the implications of releasing onto the market the pesticides whose safe use, in your Department's view, has not been demonstrated. We propose therefore to keep the proposals in respect of Azinphos-methyl and methamidophos under review and we would be grateful if you would provide further information on the reasons why these two pesticides, both of which we note are organophosphates, are considered to be unsafe. In particular, we would be interested to know to what uses these two pesticides would be put if their useage were to be allowed, what scope there would be for their leakage into the food chain and on what independent research evidence your conclusions are based.

20 July 2006

Letter from Lord Rooker to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 20 July concerning the Commission's proposals for two pesticide active substances (azinphos-methyl and methamidophos).

  These compounds are being considered as part of a European Community review of active substances under Council Directive 91/414/EEC. The Directive provides for the establishment of a positive list of active substances (Annex 1) that have been shown to be without unacceptable risk to people or the environment. Companies supporting compounds through the review must submit a comprehensive dossier of data for each of them, which is evaluated by a designated rapporteur member State on behalf of the Community. Each dossier generally contains around 200 scientific studies covering, for example, the compound's physical and chemical properties, its toxicology and ecotoxicology, its residues in food, and its fate and behaviour in the environment. Rapporteurs may also consider other relevant published data, as well as evaluations carried out by regulatory authorties in other countries or by international organisations.

  Since neither compound is approved in the UK, we have relied to a large extent on the Rapporteurs' evaluations. In concluding that safe use has not been demonstrated, we are particularly concerned about the possible effects of azinphosmethyl on non-target arthropods and of methamidophos on operators, birds and mammals. This is not to say, however, that these compounds are necessarily unsafe; only that we believe a safe use of them has not been demonstrated by the data which the companies have provided.

  The Commission's current proposals would, if adopted, initially restrict use of both compounds to potatoes. However, should the companies wish to market either compound in the UK, we would have the opportunity to look more closely at the above areas of concern and would refuse an application if we were not satisfied. This leave the question of residues in food should treated produce be imported into the UK. We have a double reassurance on this point. First this was not an area of concern for either compound during the review process. Second we would not expect quantifiable residues of either to occur in tubers. The government's Pesticide Residues Committee has looked for both compounds in potatoes as part of its monitoring programme, and found neither of them. In principle, applications could be made to extend their use to any other crop once they were included in Annex I to Directive 91/414/EEC. Such applications would require an additional dossier of supporting data and we would have an opportunity to assess the implications for consumers in each case.

  There have, however, been developments in the Council's consideration of these proposals. Following discussions between attachés, only two of the proposals—for azinphos-methyl and vinclozolin—are subject to a qualified majority against and the Commission will have to reconsider its position on these compounds. For the remaining six (which would include methamidophos), there is a non-opinion which should lead to adoption of the proposals by the Commission under comitology rules. The Presidency has indicated that it will ask Ministers to confirm the position on all eight proposals at the September Council. In the circumstances (and given that we have the safeguard of a further national evaluation before methamidophos could be approved in the UK), I hope you will be able to lift your reserve on these proposals.

8 August 2006

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007