Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Controversial EU rules 'risk giving Russia monopoly over Europe's fertiliser market'

Iain Withers

Concerns are mounting that new EU rules to limit the amount of toxin in fertilisers will give Russia an “effective monopoly” over the market and power over European food supply.

Final talks have begun at the European Commission in Brussels on proposals to cap the amount of the toxin cadmium in fertilisers.

Supporters say the limits - which will ultimately outlaw products with more than 20mg of cadmium per kilogram - will help protect people’s health, with research linking the toxin to organ failure, arthritis and fertility problems.

But opponents, including Britain’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU), say evidence does not support the strict EU limits, which they argue go beyond what is necessary to protect human health and will enable Russian suppliers to dominate the market.

Rival producers in North Africa and China have higher levels of the naturally occurring toxin in the phosphate they mine for fertilisers than Russian suppliers and may lose access to the European market if they are unable to invest in costly technology to reduce these levels.

Tensions have heightened in the West over Russian relations since an apparent nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Salisbury. Russia has shown a willingness in the past to exercise economic power over European markets, for instance in energy through giant Gazprom.

A fertiliser industry source told the Telegraph: “There’s a very real risk if these limits go ahead, it will give Russia an effective monopoly over the European fertiliser market and greater power over our food supply.”

The NFU has previously warned Europe could become “solely dependent on Russia to supply phosphate” and called on the EU to “come to a sensible, evidence-based position which ensures that farmers are not left at a disadvantage in the global market”.

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However, environmental campaigners said the reforms were necessary. Emily Macintosh of the European Environmental Bureau said: “Cadmium is a carcinogen that is also linked to osteoporosis, kidney failure, heart disease, and fertility problems.

“As a bare minimum, EU governments must limit cadmium levels in many of the fertilisers sold in Europe to 20mg/kg.”

The EU proposals would see cadmium levels limited to 60mg/kg initially, then 40mg/kg after six years and 20mg/kg after 10 years. The timescales were initially stricter, but were watered down by the European Parliament.

This week the European Commission began so-called ‘trilogue’ talks between itself, the Parliament and member states to reach a final decision, with the aim of passing legislation by the end of June. Several member states are thought to oppose the strict limits.

A Commission spokesman said: “Our positions remain unchanged and we look forward to an ambitious deal on phosphate fertilisers.”

Telegraph.co.uk

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