Researchers fear 'watered down' UK pesticide legislation

Analysis shows barriers which have previously banned Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals have 'been lifted' in advance of future trade talks
Analysis shows barriers which have previously banned Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals have 'been lifted' in advance of future trade talks

Researchers have warned that there could be 'significant departures' from current pesticide legislation once the UK leaves the EU.

Pesticides which have been labelled carcinogenic under current EU legislation could make its way into the UK due to a 'significant weakening' of enforcement arrangements.

The new analysis by the UK Trade Policy Observatory indicates that what should be a technical formality of transferring EU powers into national law when the UK leaves the EU could instead 'open the gates' to outlawed pesticides.

The group, which is a partnership between the University of Sussex and think-tank Chatham House, says such pesticides have been shown to alter human reproductive, neurological, and immune systems.

It has uncovered a significant weakening of enforcement arrangements covering the approval of pesticides as part of legislative changes carried out under the EU Withdrawal Act.

They include the removal of a blanket ban on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), potentially allowing for their use on UK land despite.

This is despite evidence suggesting that the chemicals raise the risk of some cancers, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.

EDCs are permitted for use in Canada and the US and both governments view the EU ban as an undue trade barrier.

The new analysis observes this barrier has now effectively been lifted in advance of UK-US and UK-Canada future trade negotiations.

Dr Emily Lydgate, Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory, said: “While the stated aims of the EU Withdrawal Act was to bring existing EU pesticide regulations into UK law without major changes to policy, our analysis reveals that there are significant departures from EU pesticides legislation.

“The new legislation consolidates powers to UK ministers to amend, revoke and make pesticide legislation, and weakens both enforcement arrangements and the requirement to obtain scientific advice.”

The researchers also warn that the EU system of checks and balances is being cast aside for a new regulatory process which places power into the hands of UK ministers and away from scientific advisors.

EU requirements place scientific advice as integral to the approval process, but they warn that the commitment to scientific evidence will be “significantly watered down” in the future.

This is because UK ministers will only be required to consider scientific evidence at their discretion, which may open the door to deregulation in the future.

Dr Lydgate outlined the concerns to the Committee on Exiting the European Union on Wednesday 15 May.

She warned there is already provisions to overhaul EU safeguards regardless of what kind of Brexit is finally agreed.