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Michael Gove Deletes Regulations On Hazardous Pesticides Even Before We Leave The EU

Currently the Environment Secretary, but now in the campaign to become Tory leader and PM; Michael Gove has ditched EU Environmental Protection standards regarding harmful pesticides banned by the EU.

As a precursor of what is to come and in a move to appease the United States in advance of a trade deal, it is clear that the UK is already moving away from EU standards.

The Tory UK government has been transferring EU Directives that have previously been 'transposed' into our legislation, e.g. health and safety at work legislation, the Working Time Directive, and consumer regulations on mobile phone tariffs; into substantive stand alone UK law.

The mechanism used was created by the Withdrawal Act that doesn’t permit substantive changes to these laws.

However, The Huffington Post has reported that Michael Gove is being threatened with legal action amid claims he is using ministerial powers to “delete” regulations on hazardous pesticides post-Brexit.

Rachel Wearmouth’s news report explains:

The Chem Trust charity says the environment secretary has laid a last-minute amendment to Brexit legislation which would “substantially weaken” UK law and oversight of chemicals. 

The charity says the move, being pushed through using executive changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill - which ministers said was aimed at copying EU laws onto the UK statute book - is “the first concrete evidence” of Brexit being used “as a cover for deregulation”.

Chemtrust says it has hired legal firm Leigh Day and sent a letter to the minister - passed to HuffPost UK - warning the government it is preparing to launch a judicial review.

Reporting via the Chemtrust website, Kate Young makes the details of the situation abundantly clear:

‘The UK Government has claimed that it would not weaken EU environmental laws when transferring them into UK law in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with Secretary of State Michael Gove stating that “We will deliver a Green Brexit, where environmental standards are not only maintained but enhanced“.

However, CHEM Trust’s analysis is that this pledge has been broken, and instead laws on pesticides have been weakened to allow the use of hazardous chemicals that can disrupt hormones.

Meanwhile in a separate law on other hazardous chemicals the Government are planning to shut out representatives of public health, environment and consumers from the decision-making process.

Specifically, the charity is concerned about endocrine disrupting (EDC) pesticides - a substance widely used in US farming - being permitted in the UK for the first time.

The EU banned EDCs following analysis by the World Health Organisation which showed that the substance is
“suspected to be associated with altered reproductive function in males and females; increased incidence of breast cancer, abnormal growth patterns and neuro-developmental delays in children; as well as changes in immune function”. 

Those organisations concerned about public safety fear the potential drop in standards paves the way for a post-Brexit trade deal with America but without proper scrutiny.

Pic: letter to GoveChemtrust says that is represented by law firm Leigh Day, and has now sent a Pre-Action Protocol letter to Environment Minister Michael Gove setting out its concerns. Click the pic to the right to download it.

The pre-action letter asks for more information from the Government before deciding whether to start judicial review proceedings.

Kate Young from Chemtrust again explains:

‘CHEM Trust is of the view that the Government has acted unlawfully in weakening laws that prevent the use of hazardous endocrine disrupting pesticides, and by removing participation by environment, health and consumer groups from the proposed regulatory procedure for chemicals.

EU law regulates the use of pesticides, through the approval of active substances (the active ingredient in a pesticide) and the authorisation of pesticide products (plant protection products, PPPs).

One important part of this EU law is a ban on pesticides that can disrupt the sensitive hormonal control systems of people or of wildlife (‘non target organisms’). The last few years have seen a major debate at EU level on how to define such ‘Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals’ or EDCs.....

In February the Government laid before Parliament a piece of secondary legislation, a Statutory Instrument (SI), concerning pesticides regulation, which will come into force on exit day. This SI, amongst many, is necessary to convert EU legislation into UK domestic law as required under the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. Crucially, the aim of the Act was not to make “major changes to policy or establish new legal frameworks”.

This Plant Protection Products (PPP) SI erases a significant paragraph from EU law on restricting substances with endocrine disrupting properties. This represents a significant deregulation under the cover of a Brexit process.

Article 4 of this EU law requires that “An active substance shall be approved in accordance with Annex II”. Annex II (3.6.5.) importantly stipulates that:

“An active substance shall only be approved if…it is not considered to have endocrine disrupting properties that may cause adverse effects in humans, unless the exposure… is negligible”. 

In carrying across this pesticides law into UK law, the Government have deleted this crucial paragraph that restricts approvals of EDCs to humans.’

Further details of her report can be read here

Unionsafety web-editor, Chris Ingram adds:

The principles being lost here are what has always been the UK’s stance, on consumer, food, workplace and environmental health and safety – a precautionary approach to introduction of new consumer products, chemicals, foods, workplace environments, and anything which can affect the public health.

This principle is enshrined in EU legislation adopted across all of mainland Europe and in the UK as a member state of the EU. This also includes the EEA trio of nations.

Pic: the EU 'Six Pack of H&S REgsSpecifically on chemicals, REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) introduced under EC Regulation 1907/2006 enshrines the so-called precautionary principle.

Therefore chemicals should not be marketed and sold unless there is clear scientific evidence to show that they are effective and that any harm they pose to the public is minimal and controlled.

The United States has no such principle and puts profit ahead of public safety, by allowing any products or chemicals to be sold unless there is clear ‘scientific evidence’ to show they are harmful. This allows US business to reject any arguments and question ‘the science’ leaving consumers having to take legal action to remove carcinogens, environmental damaging substances, poisons in food, and even asbestos in children’s toys!

The outcome of such action takes years and cannot always be guaranteed to ensure a just outcome, not to mention the huge cost of taking a company to court.

If we follow the US, not only will our pharmaceutical companies probably no longer be able to sell products in the Single Market, but public safety will be harmed, as this example of Gove’s jumping the gun on a trade deal with America makes all too clear.

This is the price we will pay for alignment with the US and will increase illness and deaths and ensure minimal protection for the public, consumers, our environment and our children’s future. Workplace deaths from having to work with known substances that are carcinogenic and environmental pollution will increase.

Finally unless we align ALL our standards with those of the US, after signing a UK/US trade deal, we will most probably be sued for £Billions, as have countries like under the Investor State Disputes Settlement procedures inherent in all trade deals the US does with other nations.

For more information on ISDS, visit this webpage and for an example of Monsanto's carcinogenic pesticides e.g. Roundup read this

For an example of how science is junked and distorted by chemical companies such as Monsanto read this

Source: Huffington Post / ChemTrust / Business and Human Rights Resource Centre / unionsafety


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