NGOs propose new Directive on pesticide dependence

7th June, 2002



Fisheries: Commission proposes deep cuts

The European Commission this week proposed plans for reforming the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which include attempts to move towards the catch reductions of up to 60% recommended by EU scientific advisers. If the plans are accepted, funding for new vessels would be cut and more money channelled into decommissioning boats and redeploying the almost exclusively male workforce at the sharp end of the industry. In addition, long-term management plans, based on scientific advice, would replace the current system of annually-negotiated Total Allowable Catches (TACs). The size of TACs tends to reflect political considerations rather than the reality of rapidly depleting stocks. The new rules would be backed up by tougher penalties and better, more uniform enforcement.

The reforms were due to be issued by the Commission over a month ago but were delayed when it was alleged that the Spanish government had exerted undue pressure on Spain’s senior Commissioner Ms. Loyola da Palacio. With a large industry on which tens of thousands depend, directly or indirectly, for their livelihoods, Spain is unhappy about the proposals.  Spanish PM Aznar has made this very clear, and it is alleged that Commission President Romano Prodi’s response to this included the sudden removal from his post of  Steffen Smidt, the Danish official who actually write the reform plan. The Commission has denied  this, but apologised to Mr Smidt for the disrespect it showed in giving him 24 hours’ notice that he was to be moved to other duties.

Spanish discontent is not confined to the right of the political spectrum, however. In a heated debate at a meeting of the European Parliament’s United Left Group, Spanish members urged the group to resist the plans, calling them an attack on a vulnerable group of workers who had few alternative sources of employment. Members from the north took a different view, however. Erik Meijer of the Dutch Socialist Party, for example, said that “big reductions in the fleet and catch are clearly necessary. We should be demanding social measures to help fishermen who lose their jobs, but resistance to the principle behind these proposals is not viable.”

You can respond directly to Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler’s proposals through an internet “chat” on 17 June 2002, from 18h-2oh CET (one hour in front of UK time). Send your comments or questions to to: Chat-Fischler@cec.eu.int.  If you’re not sure how to take part, go for advice to this website

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Pesticides Action Network Europe (PAN Europe) this week released a suggested Directive on Pesticides Use Reduction in Europe (PURE). The text, presented jointly by the two organisations, aims to speed up the European Commission’s development of effective legislation on the sustainable use of pesticides.

A spokesperson for the two groups explained that “The objective of the suggested Directive is to contribute to a high level of protection of human health and the environment through reduction of dependency on and, wherever possible, elimination of the use of pesticides (Plant Protection Products).”

In order to comply with this objective, the main target of the suggested legislation is to attain a 50% reduction in the frequency of applications of pesticides at national level within 10 years, thereby reducing the impact of pesticides on human health and the environment.

Heike Schmitt of PAN Europe added that, "The problems caused by pesticides are serious and increasing, particularly contamination of groundwater, foodstuffs and accumulations of certain pesticides in plants and animals, and the quantities of pesticides used have climbed since 1996."

The proposed Directive is therefore based on the prevention and precautionary principles and, in addition, on the 'None unless…principle', meaning that no pesticides shall be used in the growing of crops or in other pest control applications unless it is determined that no other method, practice or system of control is available to prevent unreasonable pest damage.

"All pesticides are toxic,” said the EEB’s Stefan Scheuer. “Minimising their use, controlling their application and substituting with safer control methods, are therefore the essential missing instruments for securing the quality of our food and drinking water. While legislation before the European Parliament should ensure that unacceptable pesticides are not licensed for use in the EU, its success is limited by its failure to promote alternative pest control systems."

The proposed reduction of 50% suggested by PAN and the EEB could be achieved by promotion of alternative methods including organic farming, and by mandatory application of integrated pest management (IPM) for non-agricultural situations and integrated crop management (ICM) on all cultivated land not yet in organic farming.

The organisations said that their proposal for a Directive is put forward as a discussion tool and comments are welcome. Catherine Wattiez of PAN Europe said “In the next few weeks, the Commission is expected to release a long-awaited Green Paper stating what it intends to propose to address impacts from pesticide use, but binding legislation could still be years away. In view of the urgent need for new legislation in this area, we hope to speed things up with this proposal.”

Other measures of the suggested Directive are national action plans to achieve the progressive reductions of use, minimum training and certification requirements for pesticide dealers, pest control operators, crop protection advisers and extension services, regular inspections of use practices and of dealers, record keeping requirements for pesticide producers, dealers and pest control operators. Coordinated monitoring and long-term research programs are also proposed in order to determine the impact on human health and the environment from pesticide use.

For the complete text of the proposed Directive go here

Greens leave government as Finns go nuclear

"It is a total illusion to assume that the climate problem could be solved with nuclear power," the Greens said in a statement. "If nuclear energy use was to be doubled from the current 7% in the world during the next 25 years, one new nuclear plant would have to be built every week. This would of course produce equally immense safety risks and nuclear waste problems."

Finland's Green environment minister Satu Hassi this week resigned in protest at last Friday's parliamentary vote in favour of constructing a new nuclear power station.  The resignation followed a decision by Ms Hassi's party to leave the government.

Environmentalists have attacked the Finnish government’s step back into the twentieth century, with the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation calling it “a rejection of sustainable development. EU energy commissioner Loyola de Palacio, on the other hand, was not surprisingly full of praise for the move, as were her friends at pro-nuclear lobby Foratom..

The Finns claim nuclear power will help them to meet their Kyoto commitments, but a spokesperson for the European Parliament’s Green Group said, "It is a total illusion to assume that the climate problem could be solved with nuclear power," the Greens said in a statement. "If nuclear energy use was to be doubled from the current 7% in the world during the next 25 years, one new nuclear plant would have to be built every week. This would of course produce equally immense safety risks and nuclear waste problems."

Colin Powell: “a lifelong bagman for powerful interests”

“Quietly, without fanfare, in a bland statement issued by its most "moderate" front man, the Bush Regime crossed another moral Rubicon last week, carrying the once-great republic they have usurped deeper into the blood-soaked mire of international criminality.

The move--committing the United States of America to a policy of Hitlerian military aggression--was little noted at the time. A quick soundbite, maybe, on a couple of the more wonky TV news shows; a brief quote buried somewhere in the thick gray sludge of the "serious" papers. The Regime guaranteed its poison pill would go down sugarcoated by picking Secretary of State Colin Powell as its mouthpiece.

It was a masterstroke of propaganda, really. The former general has long been regarded by the "serious" media on both sides of the Atlantic as a "moderate" maverick on Bush's hard-right team.

Liberal commentators praise Powell as a "restraining influence" on more bellicose insiders like Cheney and Rumsfeld, and a wise, guiding hand for a president unschooled in the subtleties of world diplomacy.

It's all a sham, of course. Powell is nothing more than a lifelong bagman for powerful interests. His willingness to play ball, to look the other way, has made him a convenient tool for the some of the most violent and undemocratic forces ever to pollute American society.

Read the rest of “Unmasking Colin Powell” by Chris Floyd in Counterpunch   here

I n Brief

No vote-winner: If Britain adopts the euro it will bring about a gap between income and expenditure of £8bn, according to a study by investment bankers Goldman Sachs. This will mean either deep cuts in already ramshackle public services, further privatisation measures or enormous tax rises. Hardly the stuff of which successful election manifestos are made.

UK/Cuba: 85 British Members of Parliament have signed a resolution protesting at the inclusion of Cuba in the Bush administration's so-called "axis of evil." The motion, Early Day Motion no. 1246, entitled "US Threat to Cuba" was tabled by Labour and UK Cuba Solidarity member MP Jeremy Corbyn on May 7th and had reached a total of 85 signatures (75 of them Labour MPs) by the close of the Commons session on Friday May 24. More information about the protest resolution can be found at this website

US/Iraq: “What exactly is the legal basis for a war with Iraq? President Bush has tried to connect Iraq with the terrorists who attacked New York City and the Pentagon. The administration has admitted recently that there is no such connection. A massive investigation by the government failed to imply Saddam Hussein much to the dismay of the government.” More from Keiler Hook, writing in Yellow Times at this website

US/Pakistan/India: “The outbreak of a war between India and Pakistan, not only raises the spectre of a nuclear holocaust in a region which encompasses almost a quarter of the World's population, it also raises the possibility of a broader war which could potentially engulf a much larger region, with far-reaching implications for the future of humanity.” Read the rest of the Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG)’s Michel Chossudovsky expose of the US role in the subcontinent’s warmongering at this website

IMF/World Bank/Africa:  The Africa's Right to Health Campaign was launched this week by the NGO Africa Action. Hazardous to Health: The World Bank and IMF in Africa, published by Africa Action and written by Ann-Louise, argues that  "The policies dictated by the World Bank and IMF exacerbated poverty, providing fertile ground for the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. Cutbacks in health budgets and privatization of health services eroded previous advances in health care and weakened the capacity of African governments to cope with the growing health crisis. Consequently, during the past two decades the life expectancy of Africans has dropped by fifteen years." For more go to: this website

“I don’t believe they will get us around the toughest question of all: whether there is sufficient will to spend more and spend better on defence.”

-“Lord” Robertson, Secretary-General of NATO, berating European governments for their lack of enthusiasm for buying things to kill people with