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The latest edition of Farmers Weekly includes an interview with Patricia Brunko, the head of the pesticides unit at the European Commission, who attempts to set out a defence of the Commission’s plans to revamp the EU’s system of approving pesticides. What struck me about the interview was about much uncertainty there seemed to be about the likely impact of the plans. However, Brunko ruled out a new impact assessment, which many stakeholders have been calling for, claiming that the initial impact assessment was thorough enough.

Brunko criticised the influential PSD assessment of the likely effects as ‘clearly a worst case scenario.’ She said that some of the pesticides to be taken off the market ‘will go anyway under the current review of existing pesticides.’ There has, of course, been a long-term withdrawal of actives either because of regulatory or commercial decisions, but nothing on the scale that would occur with some versions of the new regulatory framework. Brunko also argues that ‘for others, it is not yet clear whether they would fall under the criteria or not.’ But it is just this uncertainty that is damaging for farmers and manufacturers.

She also argues that the PSD asssessment ‘ignores new products that are still in the system, many of which may get approval.’ But it is evident that for commercial reasons we are not going to see the rate of product development that occurred in the past. Those of us who are interested in biological control agents are aware that they are coming forward for registration at a disappointingly slow rate.

Brunko was aked ‘How do you define endocrine disrupting? This is the one hazard criterion that affects pesticides, but is causing most confusion.’ She replied that ‘At the moment we are working hard to develop guidelines, though they have not been finalised yet.’ This is another example of the worrying uncertainty that surrounds the proposals.

Brunko also places great faith in the new zonal system for the approval of pesticide authorisations. This does represent a step forward, but it is opposed in many member states and may not be included in the final legislative package or only in a watered down form.

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