Toxic Trade report on pesticides published

A devastating new report from PAN UK focuses on how trade deals beyond the EU threatens to weaken UK pesticide standards.
Toxic Trade compares current UK pesticide protections with that of three potential trading partners: US, Australia and India.
Not only could trade deals with these countries lead to increased pesticide-related harms to UK citizens, but also our wildlife and the natural environment.

For instance:

  • American grapes can contain 1,000 times the amount of the insecticide propargite – known to affect sexual function and fertility, and has been linked to cancer and miscarriages.
  • American apples can contain 400 times the level of the insecticide malathion than UK apples. Malathion has also been linked to cancer and can impair the respiratory system and cause confusion, headaches and weakness.
  • The pesticide chlorpyrifos is banned from use in the UK but is used by farmers in the US and India. It is known to negatively affect the cognitive development of foetuses and young children
  • Highly toxic neonicotinoids, currently banned in the UK, but used in Australia, the US and India, have caused huge declines in these countries’ bee populations. As well as the herbicides atrazine and diuron which contaminate groundwater and aquatic ecosystems.

Josie Cohen, Head of Policy and Campaigns at PAN UK, says:
“Much attention has been paid to the dangers of ‘chlorinated chicken’, but the UK public is equally concerned about weakening pesticide protections. We know that US negotiators have our pesticide standards firmly in their sights, and with the talks happening behind closed doors the public has no way of knowing if health and environmental protections are being traded away.”

Behind closed doors …
The report also highlights how trade negotiators are pushing the UK government. US trade officials are asking the UK to commit to consulting with the US government and private sector before implementing any new pesticide regulations or bans. This would potentially allow currently banned hazardous pesticides to be used in UK farms and gardens. Without gardeners, farmers or any member of the public knowing.

Dr Emily Lydgate, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Law at the University of Sussex and co-author of the report, says:
“A clear and central objective of US negotiators is for the UK to lower its pesticide standards. The current picture in the UK of intense political pressure coupled with a lack of parliamentary and public scrutiny means the risk of this happening is very high.”

The report also highlights the dual risk to UK farmers of reduced pesticide standards.
Vicki Hird, Farm Campaign Coordinator at Sustain said:
“The lowering of pesticide standards could be catastrophic for UK farming as well as the environment. If UK farmers are forced into using pesticides in order to compete with a flood of cheap food imports then their exports will no longer meet EU standards and they’ll lose one of their key markets. 60% of UK agricultural exports currently go to the EU so this could finish off many farming businesses.”

What can we do?
The report calls on the UK government to prioritise human health and meet their stated commitment of “leaving the natural environment in a better state than we found it.”
Garden Organic urges members to write to their MP. Using the PAN UK website, there is a simple template email to send to your MP, urging them to stop the weakening of UK pesticide standards. It will take only a couple of minutes.

Here is the Toxic Trade report in full.