The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union includes the removal of a blanket ban on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), according to the UK Trade Policy Observatory, which would weaken regulation of harmful pesticides.
A Sussex-based study concluded that the EU system of checks and balances involved in pesticide regulation will be replaced by a new process that gives more control to UK ministers and less to independent scientific advisors, as part of legislative changes under the EU Withdrawal Act.
Dr Emily Lydgate at the University of Sussex said: “While the stated aims of the EU Withdrawal Act was to bring existing EU pesticide regulations into UK law without major changes to policy, our analysis reveals that there are significant departures from EU pesticides legislation.
“The new legislation consolidates powers to UK ministers to amend, revoke and make pesticide legislation, and weakens both enforcement arrangements and the requirement to obtain scientific advice."
Commitment to scientific evidence would therefore be significantly watered down in the future as UK ministers are only required to consider scientific evidence at their discretion.
EDCs are mostly man-made substances found in pesticides, metals, additives or contaminants in food, and personal care products. They are associated with cancers, birth defects and other developmental disorders.
EDCs are, however, permitted in Canada and the US. Therefore, more relaxed regulations in the UK post-Brexit could open up UK-North American trade of EDCs.
Dr Lydgate told Laboratory News: “The UK pesticide lobby has also been critical of the EDC ban – but as a trade lawyer I certainly have to wonder about whether the UK is trying to make it easier to pivot to the US.”
Kate Young, Brexit campaigner for environmental charity CHEMTrust, said to Laboratory News: "CHEM Trust is very concerned that control of pesticides with endocrine disrupting properties appears to have been deleted from the Annex of this Statutory Instrument. The Withdrawal Act process is supposed to only change aspects of the legislation that are not operable in a post-Brexit UK, not substantive changes like this appears to be. We are now investigating this further."
The analysis was carried out by researchers at the University of Sussex, Pesticide Action Network and a student from the Centre for Alternative Technology.