Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 April 2019

Authorities close to completing landmark assessments of the risks posed to consumers by multiple pesticides

Teagasc experts estimate that a farmer working 180ha of cereals will apply over €40,000 of sprays annually onto crops worth €270,000.
Teagasc experts estimate that a farmer working 180ha of cereals will apply over €40,000 of sprays annually onto crops worth €270,000.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The pilot assessments looking at the cumulative effects of exposure to pesticides in food on the human nervous and thyroid systems – are expected to be finalised by the end of the year.

They have been made possible by the Monte Carlo Risk Assessment (MCRA) tool, a software program developed by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in close cooperation with Biometris, part of Wageningen University and Research.

The tool has been adapted to perform assessments of cumulative exposure from pesticides as part of an ongoing partnership between EFSA and the RIVM.

The software will now be further refined and complemented with a data model which, when fully developed, will house all the information necessary to perform full regulatory cumulative risk assessments. A proposal for the data model is published today.

Luc Mohimont, from EFSA’s Pesticides Unit, said the collaboration between EFSA and the RIVM continues to make good progress.

"The proposal on the data model is another big step towards our goal of embedding cumulative risk in the regulatory assessment of pesticides.”

“We expect the database to be built and populated within the next three years, and from then on risk assessors at EU and national level will have the means to perform these sophisticated assessments.”

The substances to be considered in the assessments of the thyroid and nervous systems were identified by EFSA’s pesticide experts using a a methodology specially devised for classifying pesticides into “ cumulative assessment groups” (CAGs).

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Over the coming years, CAGs will be defined for other organs, tissues and systems, such as the liver, kidneys, eyes, and the reproductive and developmental systems.

The methodology rests on the assumption that pesticides causing the same specific effects can produce cumulative toxicity – even if they do not have similar modes of action.

The EU regulation on maximum levels of pesticides in food stipulates that decisions on MRLs should take into account cumulative effects of pesticides as and when the methods to assess such effects become available.

In addition, the regulation covering the placing of pesticides on the market stipulates that pesticides should have no harmful effects – including cumulative effects – on humans.

German ban

It comes as German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner on Tuesday said she was finalizing a draft regulation to end use of the weed-killer glyphosate in household gardens, parks and sports facilities, and to set “massive” limits for its use in agriculture.

The chemical, made by Monsanto, is at the center of a heated debate in Europe over whether it causes cancer.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) agreed in February to systematically and significantly limit its use, with the goal of entirely ending use of products that contain it, but set no timeframe.

“I am planning a regulatory draft as a first building block in the strategy to minimize use of glyphosate,” said Kloeckner, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU). She said the proposal would be vetted by other ministries, but set no deadline for when Germany would end use of the weed-killer.

German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, a Social Democrat, welcomed Kloeckner’s proposal as a first step to ending use of the chemical, saying her goal remained to eliminate its use by the end of the legislative session in autumn 2021.

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