UK falling behind EU pesticide standards

The UK has failed to ban 36 pesticides that are not allowed for use in the EU, despite government promises to maintain standards after Brexit

Field with barley crops

These pesticides will now be in use in the UK for between two and five years longer than in EU countries. Thirty of the chemicals in question were allowed for use in the EU when the UK left on 31st January 2020, but have since been removed from the EU market. The remaining six chemicals have been approved by the UK government, but not in the EU, since Brexit.

According to research from the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), the 36 pesticides have been found to be harmful to human health and the environment. Thirteen of which are considered highly hazardous pesticides under UN definitions used to identify the most harmful substances, including four that are highly toxic to bees, one contaminates water and one is highly toxic to aquatic organisms.

Nick Mole, Policy Officer for PAN UK, said: “The UK is becoming the toxic poster child of Europe. 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. 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. Instead, the government is choosing to expose British wildlife to an ever-more toxic soup of chemicals.”

The list of 36 pesticides allowed in the UK but not the EU includes:

  • 12 classified as carcinogens
  • 9 endocrine disruptors (EDCs) which interfere with hormones and are linked to infertility
  • 8 are developmental or reproductive toxins also linked to infertility issues
  • 2 cholinesterase inhibitors which can impair the respiratory system
  • 1 is classified as acutely toxic

PAN UK is calling for the UK government to keep pace with EU pesticide standards and not allow our standards to fall any further. They also call for the government to put pesticide reduction targets in place, end pesticide use in towns and cities and strengthen the package of state support available to farmers to help them reduce their dependence on agrochemicals.