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Risk Management and Monitoring Progress

Behaviour of Pesticides in Air, Soil and Water

21st International Akademie Fresenius Conference discussed pesticide behaviour from an international perspective

On 25 and 26 June, the 21st Akademie Fresenius Conference “Behaviour of Pesticides in Air, Soil and Water” took place in Mainz/Germany – an event to which the host had invited plant protection managers from the environmental behaviour, exposure and risk assessment, registration and regulatory affairs and monitoring and modelling areas. At this international conference, experts from Europe and Canada discussed the latest requirements, strategies and procedures for assessing, authorising and monitoring plant protection products.

During this two-day conference, representatives from the European Commission and the national authorities in Great Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands provided insights into new plant protection initiatives and programmes. In addition, representatives from the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) workgroups reported on the latest findings on improving spray drift measurements and in pesticide monitoring (SETAC DRAW and SETAC EMAG-Pest). 

Statistical modelling fine-tunes spray drift monitoring

Currently, spray drift measurements use a first tier set of drift tables based upon research from over 25 years ago, which are now under scrutiny.  Under the SETAC umbrella, a set of workshops and a research programme, with funding from ECPA, has worked over four years to investigate options for refinement and improvement for arable crop spray drift representation. This marks a significant contribution to an updating how we consider spray drift – including modelling techniques that may bring it into line with other exposure assessments such as surface water and soil. The programme of research includes a proposal for a harmonised regulatory drift assessment protocol; testing this protocol in winter cereals under a range of conditions and growth stages in 5 countries; collating a large database of EU arable drift data (2200 trials); analysing this data; building Bayesian regression models and a drift curve tool from that data set; comparing two mechanistic models with field data and each other; assessing sampler differences from different research stations; compiling all information into the public domain; and providing web-based information for informing mitigation decisions and summarizing national certification schemes.

Pesticide monitoring in the Netherlands

Dennis Kalf of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management/Centre for Water Management, took a look at crop protection policy in the Netherlands. He said that although the results of extensive monitoring showed a decrease in the number of times the environmental quality standards were exceeded, more effort is still required. For example, for the most problematic plant protection products, emission reduction plans already are in progress. Some challenges, however,  still are waiting to be solved: There appears to be a trend towards replacing problematic plant protection products  with others that are difficult to quantify. This makes a combination of monitoring and modelling absolutely essential and is the only way to get the “complete picture”. Results are derived from the mid term evaluation of the Dutch Pesticides Policy presented by Aaldrik Tiktak. 

Scientists demand a better combination of studies to link fate and effects

Colin Brown from the University of York and Roman Ashauer of Syngenta advocated for combining fate studies with effect studies: “We often put a lot of effort into examining and predicting fate but lose valuable information along the way because we do not look at fate and effects in one context”, the scientists stated. They feel that using a holistic approach would be greatly beneficial. However, they also pointed out that such methods also involved a great deal of extra work. In future, fate examinations should be based on more than one single point of assessment and also take the spatial distribution of exposure into account. . Open-source fate and exposure models would facilitate greater transparency and a new conception of ownership and governance.

For Brown and Ashauer the advantages are obvious. “This would be an important step along the pathway to real risk assessment”.

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