EU-U.S. Trade Agreement Must Base Policies on Risk to Comply With WTO, CropLife Says

By Pat Rizzuto  

May 21 — U.S. and European officials negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement must ensure regulations on both sides of the Atlantic are based on the actual risks products pose, not just hazards they might cause, a senior trade adviser said.

If pesticides were regulated solely on their hazards, the benefits they pose by killing poisonous plants, for example, would be eliminated. There is no reason to eliminate a risk-based approach to regulations, Douglas Nelson, senior adviser for trade, intellectual property and strategic issues for CropLife America, said.

He spoke during a stakeholder presentation session held during the fifth round of TTIP negotiations, which continue through May 23.

The European Union's regulation on plant protection products, (EC) No. 1107/2009, violates the World Trade Organization's agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, Nelson said.

Under that WTO agreement, regulations that countries adopt to protect the public's health must be based on an appropriate assessment of the actual risks involved.

When the endocrine disruption provisions of the EU's plant protection regulation go into effect, the EU would no longer be using a risk-based approach, Nelson said.

Pesticides would be regulated based solely on their hazard and their potential to be endocrine disruptors rather than on a risk assessment that would determine whether people or the environment would be harmed following exposure to those compounds, he said.

That hazard-based approach could result in commodities valued at 65 billion euros ($88.96 billion) being prohibited from the European market, Nelson said. That total would include 4 billion euros worth of U.S. crops being barred from the European Union and 11 billion euros ($15.06 billion) worth of crops from Brazil, he said.

Nelson referred to conclusions in a report CropLife International released in February.

State Regulatory Authority

Marie D'Avignon, government relations manager for the Apparel & Footwear Association, urged European and U.S. negotiators to work toward regulatory approaches that harmonize the different ways chemicals are regulated in Europe and within the U.S.

The Toxic Substances Control Act hasn't been updated in nearly 40 years, D'Avignon said.

State governments are responding by developing their own regulations for chemicals, she said.

It is difficult for companies to enter the U.S. market because there isn't a consistent federal approach to regulating chemicals, D'Avignon said. Instead, companies must comply with regulations by states ranging from Alaska to Maine, she said.

Chemicals must be regulated consistently throughout the European Union, she said. Denmark has banned four phthalates, D'Avignon said. She referred to that country's regulation of di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), butylbenzyl phthalate (BBP), and diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP).

Chemical management must be centralized at the federal level within the U.S. and consistent within the European Union, she said.

States' Rights

States must retain the right to protect their residents by adopting chemical legislation and regulations, countered Vermont state Sen. Virginia Lyons (D), representing the Vermont Commission on International Trade. The Vermont Legislature established the commission to protect state jobs and businesses and state sovereignty from negative effects of trade agreements.

States such as California, Maine, Vermont and Washington are leading the way by developing innovative laws and regulations that encourage public health and environmental protection and thereby save money otherwise lost due to illness stemming from environmental exposures, Lyons said.

“States must be heard as TTIP is discussed,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

CropLife International's report, “Potential Trade Effects on World Agricultural Exporters of European Union Regulations on Endocrine Disruptors,” is available at