Trade talks spark fears over banned pesticides in food imports

Tractor spraying pesticides on vegetable field with sprayer at spring

Campaigners are concerned that a new Pacific trade deal could open the door to banned pesticides - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Environmental campaigners have warned that the UK could be opening the door to scores of banned pesticides if it signs up to a Pacific trade agreement.

Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) and sustainable food and farming group Sustain claimed joining the agreement could potentially expose UK consumers and wildlife to 119 chemicals banned in the UK, but allowed in member countries.

Their report says a deal could lead to food imports containing banned pesticides, put pressure on Britain to reverse bans on chemicals that harm wildlife, and harm exports to Europe if standards here slip.

The government says the claims are "not accurate", but campaigners are urging ministers not to weaken the UK's world-leading pesticide standards, and to prevent domestic food producers being disadvantaged by cheap imports produced to lower regulations - something that East Anglian farmers have repeatedly raised concerns about.

The report looks at the potential impact of the UK joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) with 11 countries including Australia, Canada and Mexico, which encourages regulatory alignment between members.

Foods such as apples, wheat, grapes and avocados grown in member countries are also allowed to have much higher levels of pesticides than in the UK, it says.

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Josie Cohen, head of policy and campaigns at PAN UK said: "This flies in the face of government promises not to sign a trade deal which compromises UK environmental protection and food standards".

Vicki Hird, head of sustainable farming at Sustain, said: "The government has talked a strong game on standing up for the UK farming sector post Brexit, but actions speak louder than words. With the CPTPP deal, the government is selling farmers down the river."

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A government spokesman said: "These claims are not accurate - we will not compromise on our high environmental protections, animal welfare and food standards as part of trade deals.

"All CPTPP members retain the right to regulate their own levels of environmental protection and the agreement itself contains commitments to protect the environment.

"We're clear that trade deals will not come at the expense of the environment."

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