In an opinion article, two scientists criticized pesticide approval practices – because of inadequate environmental risk assessment, there would be a decline in biodiversity. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency has been largely joined by criticism.
»Pesticides a central biodiversity factor
Researchers Carsten Brühl and Johann Zaller, both experts in environmental science, paint a gloomy picture at the beginning of their remarks, which were published as an opinion article in the journal "Frontiers in Environmental Science."
They report a dramatic decline in biodiversity, that is, biodiversity, in the agricultural landscape. "Insect biomass has fallen by more than 70% in Germany in recent decades, halving bird populations in farmland in Europe and the effects on pollinators are well known," the researchers wrote.
There is also a European study where the use of pesticides contributes to the lower biodiversity of wheat fields; In particular, plants, earthen beech and birds are affected in this context.
In another study, chemical pollution was recently identified as the second most important driver of reducing insect populations. The chemicals under consideration include pesticides.
In short, scientists say, "The scientific community agrees that pesticides are a key factor in the observed decline in terrestrial biodiversity."
Of acceptable risk, safety becomes
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) website, entitled "How Europe Ensures Pesticide Safety", states: "Pesticides – or pesticides – are a modern reality. These chemicals must be strictly regulated to ensure that their use does not affect human and animal health and the environment. "
Brühl and Zaller are also developing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is part of the pesticide permit process. To assess the environmental risk, toxicity studies will be performed and calculated taking into account the predicted exposure values.
"If the risk is considered acceptable, the pesticides can be placed on the market (…). Interestingly, the" acceptable risk "in this step of the authorization process makes the pesticides" environmentally safe (…), "the researchers wrote, citing statement on EFSA's website that Europe cares that pesticides are "safe".
So, if farmers used approved pesticides, they might think that these pesticides are "safe" pesticides. In public, however, farmers are blamed for the decline in biodiversity due to the use of pesticides, Brühl and Zaller describe the problem.
"The environmental impact assessment appears to be inappropriate for pesticide regulation because it is currently being conducted because it cannot prevent the permissible and frequently used pesticides from harming our environment," two experts concluded.
Improvement of pesticide approval
Brühl and Zaller identify three aspects that would be overlooked in pesticide approval.
- Use of several pesticides: Only one active substance or one specific product will be tested for pesticide approval. The problem is that many other pesticides would be used in the fields or plantations, not just the active substance or individual pesticide product.
- Food Networks: As part of the pesticide authorization, their impact on each organism would be evaluated separately. It would be neglected that interactions could also occur. For example, if a particular herbicide, a weed remover, safe for immediate contact with insects, may eventually be harmful to the insect. If the insects have to live off the plants killed by this herbicide, they could be affected by the decline in the amount of food so indirectly damaged. In turn, the decline in insect biomass caused thereby can jeopardize the nutritional basis of birds.
- Biodiversity in the field: EFSA's scientific opinion states: "Biodiversity must be promoted to some extent in crops in order to provide important ecosystem services." However, Brühl and Zaller complain that the relevant directive does not take this into account. This would mean that within fields and similar agricultural areas this could have adverse effects on biodiversity. In Germany alone, agricultural land would account for over 30 percent of the total area.
In conclusion, the researchers say, "If we continue to cooperate with the existing EIA system, we believe that we will continue to notice the decline of many groups of organisms such as farm birds and insects in the agricultural landscape."
As an immediate measure of biodiversity conservation, the authors propose, among other things, that pesticide use should be reduced. The study estimated that in some cases pesticide reductions were greater than 40 percent without damaging the productivity and profitability of individual growers.
The Federal Environmental Protection Agency supports the criticism
In Germany, the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) is responsible for assessing the state of the environment as part of the pesticide approval process. Compared to tal-mi-or, UBA said:
"Carsten Brühl and Johann Zaller 's analysis is applied as much as possible. Significant environmental effects of pesticides are not taken into account in authorization procedures. A particularly serious drawback is that the environmental risk assessment lacks impact on biodiversity and food webs). ..). "
Asked how it is possible that EFSA labeled pesticides "safe", which, according to several studies have been linked to a decline in biodiversity, UBA says:
"Indeed, pesticide approval procedures neglect significant impacts and risks. Unfortunately, it is not possible to prove environmental safety by authorizing a product."
EFSA did not respond to a request for comment on its statement that pesticides were approved in the EU safely. The Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), which is responsible for pesticide approval in Germany, hopes to be able to answer the pesticide safety question within a week.
The ruling prevents pesticide restriction
The Federal Environmental Protection Agency also says "tal-mi-or" who is responsible for the current licensing issues and how they can be addressed:
"Significant assessment gaps could be closed if there is political will. Finally, the EU Approval Assessment actually provides a comprehensive risk assessment, including impacts on biodiversity and food. To fill that gap, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency begins November 2018 commit its authorization to authorize funds with effects on the food web to the extent of risk reduction:
Anyone wishing to use such a medicine must, in the future, provide a minimum amount of repulsive land on their arable land that will provide insects and birds with a replacement habitat, thus reducing the biodiversity impact of the drug. "
The only problem is that the ruling of the Braunschweig Administrative Court stopped UBA's access to refugee areas. Although the court acknowledged that biodiversity must be taken into account in accordance with EU law in the authorization process. However, in the absence of the evaluation method adopted by EFSA, the German authorities are unlikely to assess the impact on biodiversity.
"The already prescribed biodiversity protection is threatening to fail in this judgment and it is increasingly questionable whether it can sufficiently counterbalance the risks of protecting chemical crops for the environment. BVL, as registration authority, has refused to appeal this judgment, in order to still reach biodiversity protection, ”the Federal Environment Agency said“ tal-mi-or, ”much to the chagrin of UBA.