In the years since the UK departed from the European Union on January 31, 2020, concerns are growing that the nation is lagging behind the EU in maintaining rigorous environmental standards. A startling 30 out of 36 pesticides, once permitted both in the UK and the EU, have now been banned by the latter. Moreover, the UK has given a green light to six additional pesticides not approved by the EU, according to research from Pesticide Action Network (PAN)..
These developments come as the UK government continues to annually sanction the emergency use of a neonicotinoid highly damaging to bees— a move directly contrasting the EU’s decision to halt such emergency allowances.
Nick Mole from PAN UK, an environmental advocacy group, describes the situation grimly. “We’re fast becoming Europe’s environmental cautionary tale. Despite promises that Brexit wouldn’t erode our ecological safeguards, we’re already sliding back. As our bees dwindle and our rivers fill with pollutants, we’re essentially offering our wildlife an increasingly toxic cocktail of chemicals.”
The list of these chemicals includes 12 known to be carcinogenic, nine that disrupt endocrine systems and are linked to fertility issues, and eight that are reproductive or developmental toxins. A change in the UK’s pesticide licensing regime and ongoing policy decisions are exacerbating the divergence in standards.
PAN UK is urging for a swift re-alignment with EU standards to safeguard public health, support the agricultural industry, and protect the environment. Nick Mole further warns, “As we fall behind the EU in regulatory standards, our agricultural exports, much of which still go to the EU, are at severe risk. This could be catastrophic for our farmers.”
In response, a spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) insisted that “all pesticides are subject to rigorous scientific assessments to ensure no harm comes to either humans or the environment.”