CropLife: EU chemical regulations threaten U.S. farm exports

By Jim Webster

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2013 - Imminent changes in agricultural chemical regulation by the European Union could choke off imports of more than $4 billion worth of already-reduced U.S. sales of soybeans, grains, nuts and fruits, says a report http://www.croplifeamerica.org/EU-Impact-Assessment commissioned by CropLife America.

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If the EU regulation is implemented as proposed next month, it could block more than 40 percent of U.S. agricultural product exports to the 27 EU countries, according to the study by Kyd D. Brenner, senior consultant at the Washington-based DTB Associates trade consulting firm.

U.S. agricultural exports to the EU already have fallen significantly relative to other export markets, he says, due in large part to existing EU sanitary and phytosanitary trade barriers. The United States supplied 14 percent of the agricultural product imports of the 27 EU member countries in 2000 but that share has declined to just 7 percent today. The EU regulation will compound the decline in exports by imposing another SPS barrier, the report adds.

“While scientific risk assessment is the internationally accepted practice for regulating crop protection products, the EU increasingly regulates based on hazard identification, without taking into account exposure or risk,” CLA says, contrary to the World Trade Organization's Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement to which the EU is signatory.”

Because the EU's approach to pesticide regulation diverges from the science-based risk assessment employed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, adoption of the new restrictions could be an obstacle to negotiating the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Brenner said at a CLA briefing at the National Press Club.

“CLA is concerned by the findings of this report and the potential impacts a hazard-based precautionary regulation may have on agricultural trade between the U.S. and EU,” said CEO Jay Vroom of CLA. While one objective of TTIP is to seek regulatory convergence to increase trans-Atlantic trade, Vroom says, the EU Regulation 1107/2009 “could shut it down.”

The likely damage to U.S. farm exports is a result of the EU hazard-based approach to regulation of pesticides and its emerging endocrine disruptor policy, Vroom says in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman based on the report. Adoption of a zero tolerance policy for chemicals classified as endocrine disruptors “would act to block EU imports of agricultural commodities containing trace amounts of these U.S.-approved pesticide products,” he adds.

“For the EU to impose a major, new barrier to U.S. exports while TTIP negotiations are in progress would not augur well for those negotiations,” he asserts. “This suggests an excellent opportunity for a pilot project to explore how to give meaning to the TTIP objective of regulatory convergence.”

Brenner's report traces the problem to the 2009 update of EU regulations on crop protection products, introducing a policy of removing from the market any product that poses a hazard, irrespective of exposure to the hazard or the risk of the hazard to human health. The European Commission's Environment Directorate originally was charged with developing the criteria for the identification of substances which may be categorized as endocrine disruptors by Dec. 13.

The report estimates that the new EU rules would preclude imports with even trace amounts of 24 substances which have been approved for use in the United States with maximum residue limits established by EPA based on assessment of their risk to human health. Three are insecticides, five are herbicides and sixteen are fungicides.

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