Belgium continues to export harmful pesticide banned in EU

The Belgian company Arysta LifeScience Benelux continues to export the pesticide chlorpyrifos, banned in the European Union since 2020, Knack and Le Soir write on Tuesday.

Chlorpyrifos is used to protect fruit and vegetables from soil-borne insect pests. The European Commission decided to ban the product in 2020 after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported a link to "adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes" in children. 

But exports have not been curbed and have continued from Belgium, Knack and Le Soir report, based on data requested from the Belgian government and the European Chemicals Agency by Swiss NGO Public Eye and Unearthed, Greenpeace UK's environmental journalism project. 

The data shows that only two member states declared export plans last year: Belgium (349 tonnes) and Denmark (30 tonnes). The Belgian exports are in the name of Arysta LifeScience Benelux, a subsidiary of the Indian multinational UPL. The Walloon company will export an additional 313 tonnes of chlorpyrifos products in 2023, according to the documents.

The company did not respond when asked if the exports had taken place. "UPL complies with all Belgian, European and international laws and regulations," said Arysta spokesperson Caroline Marlair. She confirmed that the chlorpyrifos was produced at UPL's site in Ougrée, in Liège province.

Vulnerable population

"Belgium appears to be the largest exporter of a dangerous pesticide that has been banned in Europe for three years, mainly to low-wage countries where the population is often more vulnerable to the health effects of such toxic products," said Greenpeace Belgium spokesperson Joeri Thijs. "According to the letter of the law, this may not be a problem (yet), but it is simply immoral."

The product could also be reimported into Europe through food. Last year, for example, the Belgian Food Safety Agency sent 15 warnings to other EU member states because the maximum residue limit for chlorpyrifos in food had been exceeded. These included wild strawberries from Serbia and cocoa beans from Ecuador, two countries that buy chlorpyrifos from Belgium.

Belgium's environment minister Zakia Khattabi (Ecolo, French-speaking greens) and health minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit, Flemish socialists) are working on a draft royal decree to ban the export of harmful pesticides. Khattabi's spokesperson confirmed to Knack and Le Soir that chlorpyrifos would be added to the list of pesticides in the royal decree.



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