The European Union’s environment committee has endorsed plans by the European Commission for a ban on aerial spraying of pesticides as part of a wide-ranging strategy to cut down the use of pesticides.
A group of New Zealand organisations against pesticides - the Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa NZ, the Soil & Health Association and the Safe Food Campaign are calling for the same action in New Zealand.
"Terrible health effects" have resulted from the aerial spraying of the herbicide 2,4-D; and the adverse effects of the unnecessary spraying of West Auckland for the Painted Apple moth are still being felt, said Dr Meriel Watts of Pesticide Action Network.
Soil and Health spokesperson Steffan Browing said many horticultural growers have lost valuable crops to drift from the aerial spraying of 2,4-D. Soil & Health often received complaints of cross-boundary spray drift.
Safe Food Campaign spokesperson Alison White said aerial spraying of highly toxic insecticides such as chlorpyrifos is still permitted in New Zealand, even though the insecticide was known to cause adverse developmental effects in children and has been restricted in the US.
EU pesticide control initiatives
Other EU initiatives include a national pesticide use reduction target of 25% within 5 years, and 50% within 10 years, including non-agricultural uses; a system of levies on pesticides to fund the reduction plan; a ban on pesticides in all areas used by the general public (e.g. parks, school grounds, residential areas) and in "substantial no-spray zones" around them; a buffer zone of 10m around all water courses; using the 'substitution principle’ whereby more dangerous substances will be removed from the market if safer alternatives exist
One of the major problems New Zealand has failed to deal with is the unregulated non-commercial uses, said Dr Watts.
“Right now untrained home gardeners can access all kinds of toxic herbicides and are enthusiastically waging war on weeds, with no clue about the toxic effects of the herbicides they are exposing themselves and their neighbours, too – let alone the effects on the wider environment” said Dr Watts.
Soil & Health has recently requested that ERMA reassess home gardeners access to pesticides Mr Browning said.
The European Committee stressed that only quantitative use reduction targets in the national action plans will push governments to lower the amount of pesticides used. The Member States are urged to promote low pesticide-input farming and organic farming, giving priority to non-chemical alternatives.