Today, Switzerland’s Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) announced it is withdrawing, with immediate effect, the authorisation to sell products containing the chemical chlorothalonil, an ingredient used since the 1960s to protect crops from disease.
The decision follows a reexamination of the toxic effects of the chemical over the summer.
FOAG said that after examining data provided by the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) it was impossible to exclude the possibility that certain chemicals resulting from the breakdown of chlorothalonil could have a long term negative effect on health.
In addition, FSVO agrees with an EU commission evaluation that concludes that the substance should probably be classified as a carcinogen and that its metabolites pose a health risk.
Chlorothalonil is toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates and can cause kidney and stomach damage in humans and renal tumors in rodents and dogs, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). In vitro tests done in the 1990s show the substance has the potential to damage DNA. In addition, the use of the chemical has also been linked to declining bee populations.
Tests in parts of Switzerland earlier this year revealed high levels of chlorothalonil in ground water. The drinking water in Belmont-Broye, a commune in the canton of Fribourg, was found to have excessive levels of the substance, according to the newspaper La Gruyere.
Because of such findings, the FSVO says it is necessary to act quickly.
The withdrawal of authorisation to sell products containing the chemical is immediate. Using products containing it is banned from 1 January 2020.
From 1 January 2020, chlorothalonil use will also be banned across the EU.
Pesticide brands containing chlorthalonil can be viewed here.
The ban is likely to increase the cost of producing wheat could by between 8% and 12% and reduce potatoes yields by 30%, according to NFU.
However, given an average Swiss household spends only 2% of their budget on affected crops, such a change would probably only add around CHF 15 to the monthly costs of an average Swiss household.