EU reduces pesticide residue limit in food and measure should affect Brazil

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The European Commission adopted this Thursday (2) rules that reduce the authorized limits for the residual presence in foods, including imported ones, of two neonicotinoids, pesticides that accelerate the decline of bee colonies and whose spraying is already prohibited in the EU (Union European). The pesticide is widely used in Brazil.

“The new rules will lower the maximum residue limits (MRLs) of two neonicotinoids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam (…) to the lowest level that can be measured with the latest available technology,” the EU executive said in a statement.

These limits will apply to all food produced in the EU, but also to imports of food and animal feed. The measure will be imposed on imported products from 2026 onwards, in order to give third countries time to adapt to the new rules.

The European Union is criticized for having banned neonicotinoids in its territory, but continuing to export to other countries. Brazil is the main destination for more than half of exports of these pesticides from the EU, according to records of the European Chemicals Agency.

Waste limits

Emerged in the 1990s, neonicotinoids such as clothianidin and thiamethoxam are widely used in Brazil in soybean, tobacco, cotton, rice, bean, wheat, pineapple, among others, products that are exported to European Union countries.

According to the Pesticide Residue Analysis Program, this type of pesticide was the most commonly found, in a survey carried out in 2019, on fruits and vegetables in Brazil.

By killing bees, neonicotinoids also harm crop production. This is because they are the main pollinators of most ecosystems, promoting the reproduction of several species.

According to the Geographical Atlas of Pesticide Use in Brazil and Connections with the European Union, by researcher Larissa Bombardi, pesticide MRLs in Brazil are much higher than those in Europe. For some insecticides such as Acafate, used on soybeans, they are 3.3 times higher and in the case of citrus, up to 20 times higher.

In Europe, neonicotinoids are mainly defended by the lobby of beet growers, where it is used to protect the legume from jaundice, transmitted by green aphids. It attacks the nervous system of insects, including pollinators such as bees and bumblebees.

bee killer pesticide

Neonicotinoids are accused of contributing to the global decline of these insects. Even at low doses, they disturb the sense of orientation of bees and bumblebees, which can no longer find their hive, and alter sperm in males.

Since 2018, the EU has banned the open field spraying of three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid), and the EU Court of Justice in mid-January declared illegal the derogations adopted by a dozen member states to continue allowing beet use neonicotinoids in seed coating as a preventive measure.

The new rules are part of the EU food strategies “Farm to Fork” (“from farm to fork”, in free translation) and “Green Deal” (“green deal”, in free translation), which aim to “take into account environmental aspects” in the guidelines for imports that contain traces of pesticides banned in the EU, “but respecting the rules and obligations of the World Trade Organization”, observes the Commission.

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