The EU's new regulations on pesticide use are designed to protect public health. But they could end up harming it instead. The EU is considering legislation that it hopes will help reduce pesticide levels in foods. By changing the way it assesses the potential health and environmental impacts of pesticides--moving to a hazard-based assessment based solely on chemical toxicity rather than the context in which the chemical is used--the legislation is likely to reduce the number of pesticides on the market, as well as how frequently they are used.
The legislation has been billed as a necessary and long overdue public-health reform. And while many of the substances targeted can cause cancer or mutations, when consumed in sufficiently high quantities and over an extended period of time, Europeans are not at risk from pesticide poisoning. The unintended consequences of this legislation will easily outweigh any public-health benefit. Quantifying its precise impact is impossible, hobbled by the legislation's ambiguous language and subsequent uncertainty about which chemicals it would actually ban. More importantly there is no rigorous, sciencebased assessment weighing the regulation's anticipated benefits against its inevitable costs. . . .
Roger Bate is a resident fellow at AEI.