Sustainable Food News

Source: Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory

USDA worries that screening of 700 chemical substances for endocrine disrupting properties could lead to trade disruptions

Nearly $4.8 billion in U.S. exports of processed food and feed products, and the raw agricultural commodities they are derived from, are under threat as the European Union assesses hundreds of chemical substances to identify endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with the body’s endocrine, or hormone, system, causing cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. A wide range of substances, both natural and man-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption, including pharmaceuticals, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT and other pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A.

Endocrine disruptors can be found in everyday products such as certain foods, plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides. Some phytoestrogens, naturally occurring substances in plants that have hormone-like activity, can be found in soy-derived products, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Last month, the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC) released a list of about 700 chemical substances it will screen as part of its assessment of potential endocrine disrupting properties. After it completes the screening process, the JRC will conduct a cost/benefit analysis of criteria laid out in a June 2014 roadmap that described four policy options to identify endocrine-disrupting compounds.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, will then use the results to draft legislative proposals for the final criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors for pesticides and biocides, whichwould then be banned from the marketplace, possibly affecting established import tolerances.

The EU’s criteria could cause trade disruptions for major U.S. exports of agricultural commodities because it would also capture the insecticidal products with which crops like tree nuts, fruits, soybean and peanuts are commonly treated, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

Citing an industry study, the report said the potential effect of the policy change could lead to trade disruptions amounting to about $4 billion worth of U.S. raw agricultural commodity exports. The largest impacts would be in U.S exports of tree nuts and fruits, valued at $1.6 billion, soybeans and groundnuts, valued at $1.5 billion, and grains, valued at just under $600 million.

“Inclusion of processed food and feed products from these commodities would increase the potential effect to $4.8 billion,” the report said. “Globally, $80 billion of EU imports could potentially be affected by ED cut-off criteria.”

The JRC will publish its results of the screening by March 31. The results of the screening will then be used to assess the costs/benefits of the different options in the roadmap, which is expected to wrap up by September 30.

After that, the JRC will then adopt a final measure, including its drafting and approval, which will take up to 12 months, meaning the criteria would be adopted by mid-2017 at the earliest.

Story courtesy of Sustainable Food News, an authoritative daily trade journal. For subscription information:

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