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EU pesticides export ban: what could be the consequences?

Stéphanie Kpenou, 18 April 2024

[English] [français]

The report focuses on how a ban would affect EU employment, as well as the impacts on human health and the environment in importing countries. It concludes that stopping the export of EU-banned pesticides would neither endanger employment nor burden the EU economy. At the same time, a ban would positively impact people’s health and the environment in importing countries.

While pesticides are banned in Europe because they are too hazardous for humans and/or the environment, European companies are still allowed to manufacture and export them in other parts of the world. This EU double standard poses a threat to human health and the ecosystems in importing countries, mainly Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC). At the same time, the EU imports food grown using these substances, leading to exposure of EU consumers via residues in imported foods and also putting EU farmers in an unfair competition.

After committing to ban the export of these pesticides in 2020, the EU has been stalling, and even backtracking, under pressure from the industry, which fiercely opposes the adoption of an EU-wide export ban. The main argument used by the industry is that an export ban would harm the EU economy and create a massive job loss for pesticide producers while having no beneficial impacts for the protection of human health and the environment in importing countries. The thorough investigation presented in this report gives a completely different picture :

  • A negligible economic cost for the EU. The total number of jobs potentially at risk as a result of a hypothetical EU export ban would be as low as 173 jobs in 2022. Based on the experience with the partial French export ban, the authors conclude that the total potential loss of employment would have accounted for 25 jobs in 2022 for the entire EU. In the end, no jobs might be lost at all as staff may be relocated or given different tasks.
  • Positive impacts for importing countries. To this day, the EU remains the world’s leading exporter of pesticides. Consequently, stricter rules on pesticide exports will have positive effects on chemical pollution globally. Halting exports of pesticides banned by the EU would reduce exposure and all associated risks for the health of agricultural workers, local populations, and the environment.

Based on these findings, the coalition of civil society organizations urges EU policymakers to act without further delay.

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