The UK is falling behind the EU in removing harmful pesticides from agricultural supply chains, a campaign group has warned.
Pesticides Action Network has released new data that reveals 36 pesticides that are banned in the EU are permitted for use in the UK.
The organisation said these chemicals posed a risk to human health and the environment.
Of the 36 pesticides that can be used in the UK but are currently not allowed in EU countries, 13 are considered highly hazardous pesticides – a UN concept used to identify the most harmful chemicals – including four that are highly toxic to bees, one that contaminates water and one that is highly toxic to aquatic organisms.
These 13 hazardous pesticides will now be in use in the UK for between two and five years longer than in EU countries, the organisation said.
“The UK is becoming the toxic poster child of Europe,” said Nick Mole from PAN UK. “The government has repeatedly promised that our environmental standards won’t slip post-Brexit. And yet here we are, less than four years later, and already we’re seeing our standards fall far behind those of the EU.”
In addition of these 36 pesticides, 12 were classified as carcinogens, nine interfere with hormone systems and eight were developmental or reproductive toxins which have adverse effects on sexual function and fertility.
The majority (30) of the chemicals were allowed for use in the EU when the UK left on 31 January 2020 but have since been removed from the EU market.
The remaining six chemicals have been approved by the UK government, but not by the EU, since Brexit.
The data has been refuted by some industry experts. Information seen by The Grocer claimed the number of pesticides being used by the UK compared to the EU was much smaller than PAN suggests.
Industry insiders challenged that many of the pesticides highlighted by PAN were not included on the HSE register of products authorised for use in GB, and therefore it was not accurate to claim they were in use. Of the remaining 12, two are still in use in the EU, two are biological control products, one is a new active, developed using new technology and five have expiry dates in 2024, leaving only two being used as indicated by PAN.
“With UK bees and other pollinators in decline, and our waters never more polluted, now is the time to be taking steps to protect nature,” Mole added. “Instead, the government is choosing to expose British wildlife to an ever-more toxic soup of chemicals.”
PAN UK is calling for the UK government to keep pace with EU pesticide standards at a minimum and not allow existing UK standards to fall any further.
The organisation is also calling for the government to put in place pesticide reduction targets, end pesticide use in towns and cities and to strengthen the package of state support available to farmers to help reduce their dependence on agrochemicals.