EUROPEAN citizens are highly concerned about the use of pesticides and their effect on health and the environment.
An Ipsos survey of citizens in six European Union Member States – Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Romania and Spain – found that 75.9% of respondents were worried about the impact of pesticides on themselves and their families’ health. The survey was commissioned by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe.
Respondents in Poland and Romania expressed the highest level of concern about the health impact of pesticides (80.4% and 84.1% respectively), while those in Denmark and Germany showed a somewhat lower level of concern (62% and 69.8% respectively).
As many as 81.8% of respondents are concerned about the environmental impact of pesticide use with modest divergence across the six member-states included in the survey. 77.7% of respondents agree that the use of pesticides is harming the environment, with the highest agreement in France (82.5%) and Poland (80.3%).
The survey participants expressed different levels of trust in national governments to prioritise people’s health and the environment when deciding on the use of pesticides. Those in Spain and Denmark expressed the highest levels of trust. In contrast, around half of Romanians (50.3%) do not trust their government to protect them against pesticides. This number is 46.7% in France and 44.8% in Poland.
PAN Europe says that the poll finds opposition to “gambling” with pesticides. The participants in the survey expressed a strong preference for a precautionary approach, instead.
Three in five (59%) respondents agree that farmers should always use methods of preventing or controlling pests and diseases that carry the least risks for human health and the environment or else lose access to EU financial support. As many as 73.2% of respondents are in favour of making Integrated Pest Management rules mandatory for farmers in the EU.
Further, the most preferred buffer zones between areas where pesticides are used and sensitive areas, such as schools, kindergartens, hospitals, elderly homes, nature-protected areas and water bodies are also the largest options offered by the survey, namely 1,000 metres and 3,000 metres.
As many as 85.3% of respondents in the countries polled are in favour of halting the use of a specific pesticide if new scientific evidence emerges indicating that a particular pesticide may cause harm to human health and/or the environment – until more is known.
The majority of respondents (61.9%) believe that glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the EU, should be banned in the EU, with the figure rising to 70.5% in France and 68.3% in Germany.
Dr Martin Dermine, Executive Director of the Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe, said: “European citizens don’t want to take risks when it comes to their food, their health and the environment. These results are a clear call to policymakers to reduce pesticide use and to be much stricter in authorising pesticides”.
The results of the poll show notable consistency in attitudes across different EU member states. In Poland and Romania, citizens express the same or a higher concern about the impact of pesticide use on health and the environment as in France and Germany.