Export of Products Not Registered in the EU
Why do we sell crop protection products that are not registered in the European Union to countries in the Global South?
We want a future of agriculture that benefits everyone – no matter where in the world they are located. Therefore, we encourage a continued open and honest exchange on topics of concern. We invite everyone to enter such dialogues.
Every so often reports have highlighted that we manufacture and sell crop protection products to countries in the Global South (e.g., Brazil, India, African countries) that are not registered for use in the EU. Although at first sight this might seem like a double standard, there are a number of reasons why this is justified – and in our eyes even required. Because: What would the world look like without crop protection? We want to address this question of responsibility in an open and transparent way.
How crop protection products contribute to food security
Globally, 30% to 40% of crops are lost each year to weed competition, pests and plant diseases (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - FAO). Independent sources say that it would be twice as much without crop protection (OECD/FAO). Our view is that our products support farmers to protect their crops from pests and diseases, therefore enabling them to safeguard yields that people need for nutrition.This will be increasingly important in the future, with the world’s population expected to grow to approximately 10 billion people in 2050. Therefore, agricultural production must be increased by 50% over the next 20-30 years according to the FAO (FAO: compared to 2013). At the same time, the amount of arable land is limited and continuously decreasing. To avoid crops being lost through pests or diseases, farmers count on products and services that help them produce better qualities and quantities of crops on limited arable land, thus also protecting natural resources. Only through collaboration and engagement can we develop innovative solutions for pest, weed, and disease management that protect crop yields to provide food security to a growing population, as well as protect our health and our environment, and ultimately contribute to more sustainable global food systems.
Why do we believe that crop protection products that are not (or no longer) registered in the EU can still be important for farmers outside the EU and can be used safely?
For many, the idea that products that aren’t currently registered in the EU can still be used safely in the right context is unimaginable. But there are a number of reasons why these products are still registered and approved in other markets.
1) Different climate and diseases require different solutions:
- Agricultural needs are very local and for many products there is simply no reason for manufacturers to seek approval in Europe, as for example crops such as coffee are not grown here. Yet products are needed in other countries to protect these crops from harmful diseases, weeds and pests. Before being applied, our products are extensively tested, evaluated and approved by public authorities following the official approval procedures set forth in the respective countries. Moreover, just as the climate in different countries varies, so do pests and plant diseases. The way diseases are treated must also be locally adapted.
2) The EU tests active ingredients differently than other regions:
- Since 2014, the EU is following a ‘hazard-based’ approach to approve active ingredients. While other jurisdictions, including many OECD countries like Australia, Canada, Japan or the USA, take a ‘risk-based’ approach. This takes into account both the hazard of the substance and the mitigation measures, compared to the EU approach which focuses only on the hazard. Our assessment of the products we sell aligns to that of the many authorities which have approved them: while they may be hazardous, they can be used safely in real-world settings by taking appropriate steps to reduce exposure.
- To illustrate the differences between the two approaches, let’s look at an example of a great value of our society - mobility. In principle, there is a certain hazard of accidents when driving a car. This is where the hazard-based assessment would end. However, we do not ban cars, but minimize the risk potential by checking the proper functioning of the car every other year, having traffic rules in place, requiring a driving license and wearing a seat belt. So, a risk-based approach assesses the potential danger and defines rules to apply to minimize it. This way, we have achieved an acceptable level of safety of driving, considering all the benefits that mobility by means of cars brings.
Offering the right solutions
- We believe that the best outcomes for people and the environment are most likely to be achieved by promoting and enforcing high standards for the safe use of crop protection products. These should apply everywhere, including and especially in countries of the Global South. We recognize that we have an important role to play in ensuring that our products do not cause harm, regardless of where in the world that harm might occur. We actively work to achieve this, for example by providing training and protective equipment.
- The focus should be on reducing risks and ensuring the safe use of products – not on reducing the supply needed to effectively control weeds and pests and thus safeguard harvests.
- We promote a wide range of stewardship programs to ensure the safe use of our products either directly or via our industry associations.
Some examples include:
- BASF Professional Farmer Kit: We have developed our own personal protective equipment kit that includes disposable masks, safety glasses and gloves.
- Suraksha Hamesha “Safety at all Times” project – winner of the 2018 Agrow Award for Best Stewardship Program. These farmer trainings focus exclusively on promoting responsible use of crop protection products and personal protection measures. By 2022, approximately 189,000 farmers have been trained. We are aware that we cannot reach everyone with these measures, but it is a good starting point to create awareness for more safety.
- By offering modern and increasingly often, digital technologies, we are enabling farmers to use our products in ways that are safe for them and their colleagues. Higher precision means less product is applied only where it is needed. New application technologies like drones also further increase the safety of our products for the operator in comparison with e.g., backpack applications.
- xarvio® digital products enable more precise application of crop protection products, nutrient management, automated buffer zones and biodiversity monitoring.
- Farmers in China and Colombia (8,000 farmers targeted by 2024) benefit from access to drone technology through higher efficiency, reduced working time and minimizing potential exposure to agrochemicals.
- Ardena – customers in Egypt receive free, real-time, tailor-made disease notifications on their mobile phones based on tomato early disease warning system, targeting 2,300 farmers and 1,800 retailers.
- Finally, on top of following the regulatory requirements of the markets in which we operate, we also proactively take products from the market or decide against introducing them to the market, if we do not consider them safe. Older chemistry has continuously been replaced by more modern and innovative products with better safety profiles.