15 May 2009

Obsolete Pesticides: A ticking time bomb and why we have to act now

John Vijgen / Christian Egenhofer

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There are considerable risks associated with obsolete pesticides (OPs) in Europe. Unprotected sites – estimated to number in the tens of thousands – constitute a lethal danger for humans and animals alike. OPs also seriously risk undermining agricultural trade between the EU and non-EU countries from Europe and the former Soviet Union. Moreover, OPs in non-EU countries constitute an imminent risk for the EU because stocks are often stored near watercourses, where they risk being washed into floodwaters especially in times of floods. The problems have been partially addressed by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which was ratified by most EU member states and many but not all non-EU countries from Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, but the Convention only deals with nine specific OPs, which represent a small proportion of the total number. In addition, and in close geographical proximity to the EU, problems remain, especially in South-East Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. This Special CEPS Report calls upon the European Commission to lead and develop an Action Plan consisting of several ambitious yet necessary steps, in partnership with the EU member states, European Parliament, non-EU countries such as those falling under the European Neighbourhood Policy or those from Central Asia, international organisations such as the FAO, UNEP, UNDP, UNIDO, World Bank and GEF, agricultural organisations, NGOs, consumer organisations and industry including chemical industry and food retailers.

John Vijgen is with the International HCH & Pesticides Association (IHPA) and Christian Egenhofer is a Senior Research Fellow at CEPS.