Each year, thousands of tonnes of pesticides banned in Europe are being exported to poorer countries. This is revealed by a recent Greenpeace study analysing the export notifications submitted by Member States to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). In 2018 alone, more than 81,000 tonnes of pesticides containing active substances banned on European fields left Europe for South Africa, Ukraine, Brazil and other third-world countries with less strict standards. With more than 32,000 tonnes exported in that year, the United Kingdom was by far the largest exporter in volumes. Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and Belgium were further major pesticide exporters.

The environmental NGO slates the hypocrisy of a European legislation banning the agricultural use of such hazardous substances as carcinogens, reprotoxic substances or substances harmful to the environment, but allowing such pesticides to be produced in Europe for export. This double standard has the potential to cause health and environmental disasters in the importing countries. Workers in these poor countries often use these extremely hazardous products without adequate protection and without being aware of the dangers for their health and the environment.

Under the European rules, any company wishing to export banned chemical products must produce an “export notification” detailing the reasons why the product is banned, its intended uses, and the amount the company intends to ship. National and EU regulators check these documents and issue them to authorities in the destination countries. The rules constitute the transposition into European legislation of the UN Rotterdam Convention, a convention aimed at giving poor countries that do not have resources to do their own research the opportunity to make an informed decision on whether to accept the exports.