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Environmental NGOs Call for Ban on Paraquat - EEB

12 June 2003, 17:22 CET

The European Environmental Bureau, Pesticide Action Network Europe and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation are calling on European Environment Ministers to ensure that the dangerous herbicide paraquat is not approved for use in the EU.

The EEB, PAN Europe and SSNC warn that workers and farmers around the world who are regularly exposed to the pesticide paraquat experience serious problems with their health. Paraquat is an extremely hazardous substance, which may cause severe and irreversible injuries in humans. The high toxicity and lack of antidote can lead to serious ill-health, and even death, after exposure. Studies indicate that paraquat has adverse effects on hares and birds, and even that it accumulates in soil.

The issue is on the agenda for discussion at tomorrow's (Friday's) Environment Council meeting; Swedish, Finnish and Danish Ministers for Environment and Agriculture have already expressed their concern about paraquat's adverse effects on health and ecology.

Paraquat is currently being discussed in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. The European Commission is aware of the adverse health and ecological effects of the herbicide paraquat, but still proposes that it is approved. Several Member States have openly rejected an inclusion of paraquat, and at the last three Committee meetings, on 2 December 2002, 26 February and 15 April 2003, the voting has been postponed.

Considering the serious health and ecological concerns of paraquat usage, combined with the loss of public confidence, the EEB, PAN Europe and SSNC strongly recommend that Environment Ministers decide tomorrow to take a stand against this herbicide, and ensure that Member States' representatives at the next meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (25-26 June 2003):
vote for the non-inclusion of paraquat to Annex 1 of the Council Directive 91/414/EEC and for the withdrawal of authorisations for plant protection products containing this active substance.

Note: The herbicide paraquat - a pesticide used to kill weeds - is sold by Syngenta in over 100 countries. It is extensively used on plantations of bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, palm oil, pineapple, rubber and sugar cane, as well as by small farmers. Paraquat has been criticised for its adverse impacts on workers since the 1960s.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) is a federation of 135 environmental citizens' organisations based in all EU Member States and most Candidate Countries, as well as in some neighbouring countries. These organisations range from local and national, to European and international. The aim of the EEB is to protect and improve the environment of Europe and to enable the citizens of Europe to play their part in achieving that goal.

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