Federal Environment Minister Zakia Khattabi has prepared a draft royal decree to halt the export of pesticides banned for use in Europe, her cabinet said on Saturday.
Belgium is one of the European countries which exports the most chemicals banned within the European Union to other countries. These chemicals and pesticides are banned due to their harmful impact upon health and the environment. The EU forbids that these chemicals are sold on the EU market, but does not place limits on their production and export.
In 2020, Belgium exported more than 4,500 tonnes of ethylene oxide, according to figures from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). This pesticide is considered to be highly harmful to health, causing cancers such as lymphoma and leukaemia after habitual exposure.
Despite exporting the product globally, Belgium recalled sesame products originating from India in 2020-2021 for fears that they had been contaminated with this chemical.
“This situation, in addition to being ethically and morally unbearable, leads to market discordance with unfair competition from third countries which may use certain chemical products,” said Khattabi. “If these products are banned for use on European soil, it is inconceivable that we continue to export them outside our borders.”
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The minister noted that many of these pesticides cause serious harm, not just to human health, but also to the environment, notably by polluting water and soil, and damaging biodiversity.
The proposed export ban, endorsed last week by the Inter-ministerial Conference on the Environment (ICE) is now subject to a request for opinion from the European Commission and various advisory bodies.