Cropwatch Newsletter 4 - Red Alert Issue 

§11. Dissenting Voices: Does Bureaucratic Bungling on Biocides Make the European Public Less Safe?

 

You will remember that biocides are regulated in the EU under the Biocidal Products Directive (BPD) 98/8/EEC and each member state is responsible for implementing the Directive into their national legislation, which for the UK (except N. Ireland) is the Biocidal Products Regulations 2001, with the HSE being the competent authority. Active substances have to be identified and authorised before they can be placed on the market. Since the EU Review Regulations came into force, safe low toxicity essential oils cannot be sold in retailed products as biocides from 1st September 2006. Now the European consumer is forced to purchase synthetic bioaccumulative & environmentally unfriendly organochlorine & organophosphorus biocidal materials as an alternative, some of which, we are now learning, may be implicated in the developments of various forms of cancer such as childhood leukaemia. This situation has developed because of a regulatory system where the cash-rich synthetic biocides industry is king, and the cash-poor naturals sector has all but been eliminated. The regulators failed to realise (or in our opinion, didn’t even care) that producers of natural biocides did not have the resources or the technical ability to construct the safety dossiers required to support the active principles through the complex biocides legislation. The regulators stock answer is that the BPD fails to distinguish between natural and synthetic biocides (however the buying public & the market does make this distinction, so this is no defence). They will also say that manufacturers, producers & formulators deliberately choose not to support the natural actives in question through the review process and that therefore the risks posed to humans, animals and the environment cannot be properly assessed (which is also nonsense – Cropwatch could do it easily). These arguments by regulatory officials always blame the producers and not their own shortcomings and Cropwatch believes that the situation needs a Judicial Review by the European Court of Justice as regulators have initiated a system that discriminates financially against small EU businesses. 

 

Talking about severe economic pressure from such chemical regulation, Aulman (2006) notes: “The biocide regulation demonstrated the impact of a high level of regulation & bureaucracy; its result was the loss of a large number of biocidal substances that were abandoned from the European market.”  It has been noted in published papers previously that the overall loss of biocides from the European Inventory makes use very vulnerable to farm-crop catastrophe – subsequently suing regulatory officials who got us into this mess may seem poor compensation (although Cropwatch is not advocating bringing back the stocks outside the EU Parliament, although we reserve the right to change our minds). 

 

Cropwatch has been having a difference of opinion in a recent mail exchange with bureaucrats in the European Chemicals Bureau (ECB). In an inauspicious start to attempt some sort of dialogue, Cropwatch took the ECB to task over a simple error in botanical nomenclature of an active biocide listed on the ECB website, which we - surely not unreasonably? - believed was actually misleading the public. According to a curt series of mails from ECB officials (including one requesting us to desist from writing any further!!), it is essentially maintained that, in effect, simple scientific mistakes originating in information provided by private industry (or perhaps from the mistake of some database clerk), cannot be rectified once incorporated into EU framework legislation. Cropwatch is in quandary as to whether this is either necessarily true or acceptable (after all aren’t EU Directives commonly amended to eliminate errors?).

 

Perhaps we should ask an expert. Any suggestions?

 

Would Anyone Like to Help Out the EU Commission?

As a final indicator of how the EU Biocides legislation is in serious trouble, you might be interested to look at all the actives substances that have been withdrawn or for which no dossier has been supplied within the time period specified in Annexes V & VIII to Commission Reguln. EC  2032/2003 (posted on the BPD website 14.06.06). We’ll have to overlook the botanical gaffes; we’ve already proven to our own satisfaction that no bureaucrat in the EU has the faintest idea about botanical nomenclature. The list includes:

benzyl benzoate (used medicinally to treat impetigo)

malathion

pyrethrins & pyrethroids

Chrysanthemum cinerariafolium ext.

Juniper, Juniperus mexicana ext. (wrongly ascribed of course: should be Texas cedarwood ext., Juniperus mexicana)

Lavender, Lavandula hybrida/Lavandin oil (which, attempting to translate into something scientifically meaningful, we take to be Spike lavender oil?). 

Obviously industry doesn’t want to play banker to the EU’s expensive little games, but if you’d like to support any of these biocides before they’re finally not included in Annex I, IA or IB to Directive 98/8/EC, and you have the requisite very large bank account, please get out your cheque book & contact the EU Commission Directorate Unit B-4 in Brussels immediately. Member states can also apply, so it will be interesting to see if anyone will want to play Russian Roulette with tax-payers money…

 

Reference:

Aulmann W. (2006) “Trends in Ecological Science – Is there a Paradigm Shift?” IFSCC Magazine 9(2), 91-95.

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