EU’s Export of Banned Pesticides to third countries Under Observation

Martin Banks

Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), New research claims to reveal the arguments used by the chemical industry to “keep exporting” EU-banned chemicals.

In 2020, the European Commission pledged to address the unethical practice of exporting banned pesticides to third countries. However, according to campaigners from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), this commitment has not yet translated into concrete action.

What Are the Ethical Concerns Regarding Pesticide Exports?

Corporate Europe Observatory claims that these pesticides are so hazardous that their use is banned within the EU. Despite this, the EU continues to export significant quantities to countries, particularly in South America and the Global South.

What Does the “Deadly Exports” Report Reveal?

The report by CEO explores industry arguments against an EU export ban, debunking six key claims used by lobbyists and industry players:

  • Economic Impacts: Despite industry claims of significant economic losses and job cuts, CEO argues that the actual impact on jobs and profits would be minimal, as banned pesticides constitute only a small fraction of total exports.
  • Outsourcing Production: The industry argues that an export ban will lead to outsourcing production to other countries. CEO contends that this is a strategic choice by multinational companies rather than a direct consequence of the ban.
  • Global South Agriculture: Contrary to industry assertions, CEO finds no evidence that export bans on pesticides harm agricultural producers in third countries. The report suggests that a model of agriculture with low to no pesticide use is both feasible and desirable.

What Are the Broader Implications and Responses?

  • WTO Compliance Issues: The industry raises concerns about compatibility with WTO rules. However, CEO states that legal opinions indicate an export ban could align with WTO regulations, especially under exceptions related to public health and nature conservation.
  • Effectiveness of a Global Approach: Industry advocates for a global approach through conventions like the Rotterdam Convention. CEO criticizes this suggestion, arguing that the convention’s inefficacy and industry influence undermine its feasibility.
  • Risks of Counterfeiting: Industry warnings about increased illegal pesticide use post-ban overlook existing issues of illegal pesticide usage within the EU. CEO emphasizes the need for comprehensive regulatory measures to effectively address these concerns.

What Do Campaigners Say About the Toxic Trade?

João Camargo, a CEO researcher and campaigner, condemns EU companies like Bayer and BASF for exporting banned pesticides that endanger health and biodiversity. He stresses the need to close loopholes that allow this toxic trade. Hans Van Scharen, another CEO researcher, highlights the undue influence of corporate lobbyists on EU policy-making and calls for “toxic-free politics” to address the global harm caused by these practices.

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Martin Banks is an experienced British-born journalist who has been covering the EU beat (and much else besides) in Brussels since 2001. Previously, he had worked for many years in regional journalism in the UK and freelanced for national titles. He has a keen interest in foreign affairs and has closely followed the workings of the European Parliament and MEPs in particular for some years.