The EU Commission's extended authorization for glyphosate has caused quite a stir. In general, Monsanto with glyphosate has been a very frequent topic of conversation. The background to this in Germany was the WHO study, which claimed that the ingredient in pesticides has a carcinogenic effect.
But in fact, glyphosate only specifically stands for quite a few pesticides that are used throughout Europe, some of which are extremely alarming for the health of citizens. This week, Greenpeace published a list of 209 pesticides that are harmful to humans and the environment. For this, all 520 pesticides approved in the EU were examined by an independent pesticide expert.
"More than a third of the pesticides used in Europe should be banned. The use of these pesticides in the production of fruit, vegetables and cereals endangers our health and the environment," says Christiane Huxdorff, an agricultural expert at Greenpeace. 209 active ingredients scored particularly poorly. In addition to glyphosate, this also includes the two chronically toxic fungicides boscalid and cyprodinil, the bee-endangering neonicotinoids and the very toxic insecticide abamectin.
Government food authorities justify the use of the pesticides of concern with the permitted limits, which would mostly be respected. However, too little attention is paid to the simultaneous use of many dangerous pesticides. "However, the trend is toward multiple exposures to pesticide cocktails in some fruits and vegetables. These are considered to be of particular toxicological concern," Greenpeace said. Last year, 83 percent of conventionally produced apples in European supermarkets were found to contain pesticide residues. And in more than half of them, between two and eight active substances were found.
The situation is no better for honey. This summer, the Bund fur Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) found pesticide residues in 13 of 22 honeys from German supermarkets. "The results are alarming and show that we have a serious problem with pesticides in agriculture in Germany and the EU," said BUND chairman Hubert Weiger. Neonicotinoids are partly responsible for the death of bee colonies and reduce the biodiversity of birds and other wild animals. "Environmentally harmful agricultural poisons are used in large quantities in fruit and rapeseed cultivation and therefore end up in foodstuffs. Consumers can no more protect themselves from agricultural poisons than can animals and nature," says Weiger.
But the heavy use of pesticides also has very different effects. As early as 2014, scientists at the University of Colorado warned of massive damage to the ecosystem from insecticides. Using DNA analysis, they found that the diversity of soil organisms on arable land has decreased. Researchers used DNA analysis to compare bacterial diversity from farmland with soil that had not been exposed to agriculture. Crop failures on already eroded soil can be delayed for some time under the use of fertilizers, at the same time the ecosystem is further disturbed — a vicious circle. At some point, no chemicals will help, the soil will be depleted and lost.
Africa is particularly badly affected by the consequences of erosion. On the continent, much of the future growth must come from agriculture. But in fact, soil loss has already reduced yields by eight percent. "We no longer have the freedom to make mistakes. We face imminent food shortages in the next 30 to 40 years. Famine is a very real possibility," says Robert Scholes.
But the influence of chemical companies on EU policy is great. Data from the EU lobby register alone show that the pharmaceutical industry officially invests 40 million euros to gain privileged access to the EU, as a study by the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) shows. However, due to "lack of control" of voluntary disclosures in the European transparency register, pharmaceutical industry spending will be "far above the 40 million euros," according to the study. By comparison, lobbying expenditures by NGOs and consumer groups involved in medicine and health invest just 2.7 million in EU lobbying (as of July 2015).