EU Pesticide Regulations & Malaria Control

08 Oct 2008
Africa Fighting Malaria
The European Union is currently considering a new regulatory regime for pesticides used in agriculture. The rationale for the new regulations, which will come into force in Fall/Autumn 2008, is to reduce pesticide residues on produce and to limit exposure to chemicals that may cause cancer or act as endocrine disruptors. 

Essentially, the regulations change the way that chemicals are assessed, moving from risk-based assessments, which evaluate the way in which chemicals are used in the real-world, to hazard-based assessments, which are based solely on laboratory data of toxicity, carcinogenicity and endocrine disruption. The regulations do not take into account the real-world application of the chemicals and do not account for the risks of NOT using pesticides.  

According to numerous reports, the implications of the regulations could be very significant for the agricultural sector. The Economist reported that all but one pyrethroid would be taken off the market, in addition to other pesticides.(Economist, July 3rd, "Regulating pesticides: A balance of risk") The consequences for food production in the EU would be dramatic, with estimates of yield losses of 29%, 33%, and 20% for wheat, potatoes, and cereals. Reductions in food production at a time of record prices would have obvious and dramatic implications for access to food, especially for the poor.   

One largely unreported issue is the effect the regulations will have on public health and, in particular, on malaria control in poor countries. If enacted, the regulations could shrink the pesticides market, driving up prices and taking some public health insecticides off the market completely. Such an event will affect indoor residual spraying (IRS) programs, long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) as well as efforts to control mosquito larvae. Furthermore, the regulations could effect ongoing and much needed research to develop new vector control insecticides. 

The new EU proposals will also drive through changes to Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) (according to Regulation EC 396/2005) on produce and animal products. New, more stringent MRLs could limit the use of insecticides in vector control out of fear that even the smallest residues will result in the rejection of export produce. The regulations will clearly have a dramatic impact on health and development more generally in many malarial countries. We feel it is imperative that the public health community come together to defend the use of insecticides to protect human health. As it stands, regulations on insecticides provide inadequate protection for human health and are a significant barrier to research and development of new chemicals.

To learn more, read AFM's letter of petition