Pesticide Control: Responsibilities Must Be Faced

Chemical poison use is out of control in much of the modern world. Safeguards exist in theory, in practice they are inadequate. At each level of responsibility, practices need to be improved. These are our suggestions for achieving vital improvements.

Pesticides, approvals, scandals

In the autumn of 2023 the banned insecticide chlorpyrifos was found in Croatian mandarins produced for home markets and for export. Shock horror. But the real horror is that this perniciously dangerous pesticide was authorized by the European Union way back on July1st 2006. It was used extensively across the region before being formally banned on 16th February 2020, with a final use-deadline of 16th April 2020. Yet here it is still in use three years later. Why was chlorpyrifos ever approved before the due testing was done which showed up the extent of the damage it causes? At the very least, why was it not withdrawn as soon as its risks began to be apparent? Why is there no control over end-users? Why aren't consumers better protected?   

The chlorpyrifos scandal was not an isolated incident. This is not surprising, as chemical pesticides are granted authorizations on the basis of largely unpublished industry studies; independent research into adverse effects takes time, so it follows much later.  It's high time for decision-makers to improve the safeguards and to ensure that they are put into practice. The European Union and European Commission are responsible for the major laws concerning chemical substances. EU Member States are responsible for the pesticides used on their own territories. In Croatia the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for regulating the so-called 'plant protection products' used in farming. The Ministry of Health governs biocides, the chemicals whose use is supposed to protect human health. Biocides are used for the annual pest suppression programme, responsibility for which is delegated by the Health Ministry to the National Health Institute, which in turn delegates the implementation of the programme to the Regional Health Institutes.

EU failure

In November 2023, the European authorities abandoned the pretence that they were safeguarding European citizens against the harmful effects of chemical pesticides. The European Parliament failed to vote for a ban on the herbicide glyphosate and the European Commission then proposed extending its authorization for a further ten years. The European Parliament also failed to support fully the 'Green Deal' proposal to reduce pesticide use over the next few years. Why? Because they chose to ignore published independent scientific research and the will of thousands of EU citizens, relying instead on mostly unpublished industry-funded 'studies'.

What now?

This means responsibility for protecting human health and essential environmental biodiversity falls squarely on all of us. National, regional and local authorities have to implement the necessary policies, particularly regarding public spaces, parks, woodlands, water sources and the marine environment. Above all, individuals must understand the dangers of using any type of chemical pesticides whether in homes, gardens or fields.

Examples of bad practices in Jelsa on Hvar Island

For many years using non-ecological substances, i.e. chemical pesticides to destroy weeds or pests in spaces used by the public has been forbidden by Council Directive (Službeni glasnik Općine Jelsa, 07.09.2010., III. Čl.32 / 9). Yet over many years in the Jelsa Park chemical pesticides have been used, including Ouragan System 4 (active substance glyphosate), Pyrinex 48EC (active substance chlorpyrifos) and Revive II (active substance emamectin benzoate); in April 2022, Hvar's roadsides were sprayed with herbicide from a van marked 'Hrvatske Ceste'; individuals have used herbicides on public paths and even on old waterways; and every year all the roads are sprayed with pyrethroid insecticides three times during the summer - pesticides which are banned in the EU for outdoor use because they are so dangerous for the environment and bees.

Illnesses linked to lack of awareness

Clearly, people are not aware of how much damage is being done by this agglomeration of dangerous poisons in the environment, and are ignoring the Council Directive. The results are all too visible on the island. Each year, there are less birds, bats, insects, wildlife, plus depleted soils in the fields. As for human health, how many islanders suffer from cancer? There is a relatively high incidence, including prostate and breast cancers, leukaemia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, as well as thyroid problems. Also neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease. Chemical pesticides can be a factor in all of these and many more health problems.

Tourism compromised

Hvar's tourism is marketed on the basis of 'untouched nature'. Widespread pesticide use is undermining the island's most precious assets and amenities.

Action needed!

Each and every individual who cares about the future health of people and the environment should act immediately. If you have been using chemical pesticides of any kind, find ecological alternatives. Teach those around you, especially children, how harmful pesticides are and how to avoid using them. Campaign against the use of pesticides by local, regional or national authorities.

Vivian Grisogono MA(Oxon), November 2023.

Related articles: Pesticides, Why Not; Testing for Pesticides; Pesticide Testing in the Home.

For more details about chemical pesticides, their possible adverse effects and the regulations governing them, please see our articles: 'Pesticides and their adverse effects', 'Pesticides, Laws and Permits', 'Pesticide Products in Croatia' 'Glyphosate herbicides, scientific evidence', among many others in the category 'Poisons Beware'.

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