By Frank Giles
Mike Aerts, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association’s vice president of science and regulatory affairs, recently shared an update from the European Union (EU) that could impact maximum residue limits (MRLs) allowed in the 27-member-country body. MRLs govern the amount of allowable pesticide residue on a food product in order to enter a country.
Because the EU has been aggressively regulating its own pesticide registrations and the MRL process, the Minor Crop Farmer Alliance (MCFA) has been closely monitoring the regulatory environment there and how it might impact U.S. agriculture. MCFA’s quarterly EU Pesticide Early Alert bulletin provides updates on all these activities. Its most recent edition prompted Aerts to give notice to specialty crop growers that another round of important crop protection materials will be banned in the EU. He said that could impact MRLs for those active ingredients (AI) on crops being shipped to the EU. If the MRLs are vacated or are lowered further, it could in effect ban those imports from entering those countries.
The EU has adopted a “precautionary principle” in the regulation and registration of pesticides. This applies a much less stringent scientific method to assess the risk and crop production benefit of a chemical. In simple terms, the approach is better safe than sorry — so these products are now banned in the EU.
“I’d hate to be a farmer in the EU right now because of the number of products being taken off the table because of the precautionary principle they follow,” Aerts said. “That is why they are importing so much of their agricultural products and food.”
The EU has become the No. 1 importer of agricultural products and food in the world, followed by the United States and China.
The next round of bans will make production even more of challenge. These are products U.S. growers rely on for food production.
“The EU has now completely disallowed the use of products such as phosmet, thiram, diquat, propiconazole, chlorothalonil, dimethoate, chlorpyrifos, thiophanate-methyl, mancozeb, alpha-cypermethrin and indoxacarb, to name a few,” Aerts said. “While the elimination of these products’ use across the pond may not present an immediate direct impact on Florida agriculture, the situation of what the EU eventually might decide to do with the MRLs for these AIs could at some point have a direct influence on our chemical pest management strategies here. MRLs for all of these AIs are still in place in the EU, but one has to wonder what the incentive is for the EU to maintain all of these MRLs, especially when farmers there are not allowed to use these products at all.”
Aerts added it all will come down to a product-by-product and crop-by-crop basis as to how the new rules will impact MRLs. “And it will depend on how much the product registrants are willing to supply the necessary information to defend their products’ MRLs,” he said. “That all costs money, and it may be too much money for some companies.”
The following AIs also are banned from field use in the EU and can only be applied in greenhouses: abamectin, etoxazole, metalaxyl, sulfoxaflor, bifenthrin, clothianidin imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and even malathion.
“All of these decisions are going to make it very tough for farmers in the EU,” Aerts concluded.
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