Tuesday

5th Mar 2024

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

Get the EU news that really matters

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.

EU supply chain law fails, with 14 states failing to back it

Member states failed on Wednesday to agree to the EU's long-awaited Corporate Sustainable Due Diligence Directive, after 13 EU ambassadors declared abstention and one, Sweden, expressed opposition (there was no formal vote), EUobserver has learned.

Opinion

The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity

The EU's own analysis has made it clear this is economic self-sabotage, and it's politically foolish three months from European elections where the far-right are predicted to increase support, writes the general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

Opinion

Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?

Europeans deserve a digital euro that transcends the narrow interests of the banking lobby and embodies the promise of a fairer and more competitive monetary and financial landscape.

Latest News

  1. Rafah invasion — a red line for EU on Israel?
  2. EU must overhaul Africa trade offer to parry China, warns MEP
  3. EU watchdog faults European Commission over Libya
  4. Hungary's Ukrainian refugees in two minds as relations sour
  5. The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity
  6. Defence, von der Leyen, women's rights, in focus This WEEK
  7. The farming lobby vs Europe's wolves
  8. EU socialists fight battle on two fronts in election campaign

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us