Pesticide taxes in Denmark to be doubled

Parliament passes law while new statistics show policy to halve pesticide use only partly achieved

Denmark pesticide taxes - already among Europe's highest - are to be doubled following a vote taken in the Danish parliament just before its summer break. Under the law, which will require EU approval to enter into force, average current tax rates of 25% of the retail price will increase to nearly 50% to buttress the government's policy of reducing all forms of pesticide use.

Farmers, who consume four-fifths of pesticides, are to be compensated for the tax increase. Corresponding cut in land taxes will make the overall change revenue neutral in line with the ecological tax reform concept.

Danish pesticide use has already fallen substantially in recent years, according to official figures released last week by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The statistics show that nearly 4,600 tonnes of pesticide active ingredients were sold in Denmark in 1997, nearly two-thirds of which were herbicides and just over one-fifth fungicides. Sales of wood protection chemicals dropped by nearly 70% from 1996 to 1997 due to a voluntary agreement between government and industry to phase out chrome-based chemicals.

The figures enable a first assessment of Denmark's official goal of halving both the tonnage of active ingredients applied and the intensity of pesticide application by 1997 compared with the period 1981-1985. They show that total sales have fallen by 47% over the period, virtually achieving the target, but that the intensity of application - which takes account of normal dose rates per hectare - has only fallen 8%.

Application intensity has fallen relatively slowly due to the introduction of more efficient, low-dose pesticides, the EPA says. It has been apparent for ten years that the 50% reduction target would be missed, an official told ENDS Daily, and this was largely the reason why pesticide taxes had been increased once again.

The Danish pesticides industry is deeply unhappy with the tax rise. The increase is "not justified at all," Preben Kristensen of the Danish Crop Protection Association told ENDS Daily today. "We consider it as a pure tax issue. It has nothing to do with environmental protection."

Meanwhile, an official committee set up in May 1997 is continuing work that could yet lead to more radical pesticide policies still, possibly including proposals for a wholesale phase-out of their use. "Everyone is waiting for the committee before deciding whether to go further," an EPA official told ENDS Daily.

Follow Up:
Danish EPA, tel: +45 32 66 01 00; Danish Crop Protection Association, tel: +45 33 24 42 66.

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