Thursday

23rd Sep 2021

Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide

  • Danish government acted after unprecedented warning by EU food safety agency (Photo: quietdangst)

Danish minister for food Mogens Jensen, a Social democrat, has instructed the national food administration to prepare a total Danish ban on food treated with the pesticide chlorpyrifos.

But Peter Pagh, a professor in environmental law at Copenhagen University calls it a blow in the air, as EU countries cannot ban such imports on their own.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Henrik Dammand Nielsen, a head of section for chemistry and food quality at the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, the Fodevarestyrelsen, has said Denmark has asked the European Commission about its plans to ban EU-wide use of chlorpyrifos and expects a reply from Brussels within five to six weeks.

"If we haven't received a reaction, we will go forward with preparing a national import ban," he said.

These preparations come parallel to the ongoing process of whether to prolong a present EU-approval of the pesticide or not.

The use of chlorpyrifos is banned in several member states, but treated food reaches consumers through imports from countries where use is allowed. An EU-wide decision is expected in December at the latest.

The Danish wish to act faster was triggered by a recent statement from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an EU agency in Italy.

Critics get attention

EFSA experts declared on 2 August that there was no discernible safe human dosage-level for chlorpyrifos and for a related product called chlorpyrifos-methyl. Both pesticides "may damage the unborn child", EFSA wrote in an unprecedented statement.

As described on this website and in several European media outlets in June, the present approval of chlorpyrifos is based on studies by the producer Dow Chemicals (called Cortega Agriscience since 1 June).

These studies were last year found to be misleading by environmental experts Axel Mie, Philippe Grandjean, and Christina Ruden.

In its recent statement, EFSA said it gave particular attention to the re-evaluation of the previous studies by the three critical scientists.

The import ban announced by the Danish food administration will be based on an EU regulation on food safety from 2002.

This regulation opens up space for temporary bans "where it is evident that food or feed originating in the [European] Community or imported from a third country is likely to constitute a serious risk to human health".

But, says Peter Pagh, as professor in environmental law at Copenhagen University, such a ban can only be upheld temporarily as the EU commission and other member states will also get to have their say on it in within 10 working days.

Lost cause?

"I would say it's pretty certain that this regulation cannot be used to avoid the complex rules on approval of pesticides, if the pesticide has been approved for use in another member state and the rules for accepted residues have been respected," he told EUobserver.

"I find it surprising if the legal advisers to the government are not aware of this - but, of course, it's also possible the government is more interested in seeking political goodwill by waging a battle it cannot win," he added.

EU law also gives the possibility to uphold or introduce stricter national rules to protect the environment or to safeguard working conditions.

But this environmental clause or guarantee in the EU treaty must be motivated by specific conditions in the country asking for it and is not seen as being relevant in the case of chlorpyrifos.

"Chlorpyrifos is harmful to all, not only to Danes. We won't go down that road," said Henrik Dammand Nielsen at the food administration.

Author bio

The investigation on chlorpyrifos is organised by Investigative Reporting Denmark and supported by Journalismfund.eu. Journalists from Knack in Belgium, Danwatch in Denmark, Le Monde in France, Dagbladet in Norway, Newsweek in Poland, Ostro in Slovenia, El Confidencial in Spain, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting in US and Andrew Wesley from the UK contributed.

EU experts agree pesticide may damage unborn children

There are no safe levels for exposure to the pesticides chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl, EU experts have said in a preliminary-finding into the pesticide - suggesting an EU-wide ban is a step closer.

Investigation

The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of

Scientists say there is no acceptable dose to avoid brain damage. Its use is banned in several European countries. Yet its residues are found in fruit baskets, on dinner plates, and in human urine samples from all over Europe.

Kerry resets climate relations before Glasgow summit

John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy, was in Brussels to discuss how to tackle climate change with the European Commission. His appearance also marked a major shift in relations after the previous US administration under Donald Trump.

Commission: Pioneering Nordics' energy mix 'example' to EU

The Nordic electricity market is an example of successful market integration plus climate action, as the share of sustainable energy keeps growing, the European Commission said. However, the decarbonisation of the transport sector remains a challenge.

Investigation

How Energy Treaty 'shadow' courts prolong EU's fossil age

The treaty enables companies to claim billions in compensation from states in front of international arbitration tribunals, if they feel unfairly treated by the states' energy or climate policies.

EU faces long wait for full vaccine supplies

The EU is still several months away from having enough vaccines to inoculate its 450 million people, with Pfizer and BioNTech, its principle suppliers, aiming for September for delivery targets.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. French MEPs lead bogus EU monitoring of Russia vote
  2. Europeans think new 'Cold War' is here - but not for them
  3. Spain wants energy price discussion at next EU summit
  4. Trust in Dutch government drops, but not for Rutte
  5. Long ago, there was another Angela Merkel
  6. The first anniversary of the Abraham Accords
  7. First refugee deaths confirmed on Belarus-EU border
  8. EU kept in dark on ex-commissioner's new lobby job

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us