Lowest Common Denominator

US-EU trade agreement threatens to reduce environmental standards in favor of looser pesticide regulations

Industry lobbyists are pushing proposals to weaken pesticide regulations in the EU and US under the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Agreement.  The ongoing TTIP negotiations between the EU and the US aims primarily to minimize regulatory differences between the two trading blocs, further opening and easing trade.

A joint proposal from the American and European pesticide lobby groups CropLife America and European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) suggests that, in order to increase trade, TTIP adopt lower standards of protection from toxic pesticides, those more akin to standards currently in place in the United States. The new study released today: Lowest Common Denominator: How the EU-US trade deal threatens to lower standards of protection from toxic pesticides analyses the proposal and if adopted, TTIP would:

  1. Permit the use of carcinogens and other substances of high concern as pesticides;
  2. Increase the amount of toxic pesticides allowed on food sold to consumers;
  3. Weaken, slow, or stop efforts to regulate endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals (EDCs);
  4. Obstruct efforts to save bee populations and protect food supplies for future generations;
  5. Block public access to information crucial to developing non-toxic alternatives;
  6. Interfere with the democratic process by usurping the regulatory authority of US States and EU Member States; and
  7. Install a “regulatory ceiling” hampering global pesticide regulation.

ciel-rpt-croplife-veggies-ts-188081154The study includes a list of 82 toxic pesticides as well as their hazard characteristics, which are banned in the EU but allowed for use in the US. Among these 82 pesticides are carcinogens, endocrine (or hormone) disruptors, developmental toxins and other extremely hazardous substances. The approach advocated by the pesticide industry would lead to a reintroduction of these banned pesticides in the EU, contrary to decades of evidence that the risks of pesticides with certain intrinsic hazards cannot be adequately predicted or controlled, and that exposure should therefore be limited.
Similarly, the industry proposal aims at amending the EU and US laws that define the maximum amount of pesticide acceptable on food in the interest of “harmonization.” The EU and US use different procedures to define maximum residue limits, with the result that US generally allows much more residue to be present than the limits set in the EU (sometimes up to 1000 times more). The CropLife and ECPA proposal urge the EU to raise their maximum residue limits to US levels and, in some cases, to use the even higher residue limits set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Man in protective suit spraying field
Man in protective suit spraying field

In their own economic interest, the CropLife-ECPA lowest common denominator approach to the TTIP negotiations is meant to increase trade of pesticides by creating uniform – if the lowest – international standards.  If adopted, the proposals would likely slow or halt environmental progress, in large part dragging the EU down to US regulations instead of elevating the US to those of the EU. Meanwhile, EU political leaders assert that TTIP won’t change the laws regarding toxic chemicals or lower standards of protection, so we will be closely monitoring how this plays out.

Read the full report.

Read the press announcement.

Originally posted on January 7, 2015.