SLU's knowledge bank

Environmental toxins know no boundaries

Last changed: 12 April 2013

After use on crops, pesticides have long moved freely between countries, carried by wind and water.

This leakage is a major environmental problem. Attempts are being made to solve it by way of international cooperation.

Jenny Kreuger is Director of the Center for Chemical Pesticides at SLU, which is part of SLU’s environmental monitoring and assessment. She has been a member of various working groups in the EU, of which one surveyed the risk of pesticides being dispersed by air between areas and countries. That work has provided guidance for assessing whether or not various chemical pesticides can be approved in the EU.

Under a new EU directive, risks involved in using pesticides must be reduced, and this can be achieved if growers use integrated plant protection, whereby chemical methods are combined with biological and mechanical ones. This will also reduce the risk of substances leaking into water and air.

Jenny travelled to Costa Rica to discuss pesticides leaching from banana plantations. Costa Rica is investing heavily in eco-tourism, yet it is difficult to grow bananas without using any chemical pesticides at all.

The country's current environmental problems, including fish kills in watercourses, are reminiscent of the situation in Sweden 30 years ago. Solving these problems will require fact-gathering and analyses before any action can be taken. This applies both in Sweden and in Costa Rica.