EU | Provisional Agreement on Cadmium Limit of 60 Mg/Kg Agreed

The site of secondary mining of Phosphate rock in Nauru, 2007. Photo: Lorrie Graham CC BY 2.0

After years of debates and wrangling, provisional agreement has been reached between the European Parliament and Council to place limits on cadmium in fertilizers. The agreement  places a 60 mg/kg limit on the toxin and carcinogen, to apply three years after entry into force of the new rules – most likely in 2022. A review clause will be in place by 2026,which may introduce further reductions. Member states with lower national limits will be allowed retain these, if currently in existence or introduced at any point up to the date of entry of the new regulation. It will also become easier to sell fertilizers made from organic and waste materials.

Recent History

As part of a circular economy initiative in 2016, the Commission proposed updating the fertilizer regulation of 2003. The original 2003 regulation did not include all fertilizers (some inorganic and organic fertilizers were outside of its scope, including bio-wastes from the food chain, animal or agri by-products). The Commission argued that this distorted competition and hampered investment in the circular economy.

There were significant cadmium-related concerns regarding soil and water pollution, as we as in relation to human health with fertilizers – see here for a 2014 letter co-signed by ARC2020 and other EU NGOs and farmer organisations.

Itai-itai! Cadmium, Mineral Fertilizers & a Tale of Two Reports

The original Commission proposal was stricter: a 60mg/Kg of phosphate at the date of application, 40 mg/Kg three years thereafter, and 20 mg/kg twelve years after that. As we reported last October, the European Parliament supported this 343 votes to 252, with 59 abstentions, albeit with an adjusted timeline (40 mg/kg in six years after date of application, 20 mg/kg in 16 years).

However a population majority in the Council opposed any limits below 60 mg/kg (ES, IT, PO, UK, HR, GRE, BU, RO, PT), while strong opposition to limits were mounted by the fertilizer industry. Initially a majority of MEPs were considered to have a position closer to the fertilizer lobby position, so health and environmental groups will hail this as overall a positive development.

The Kingdom of Morocco also opposed the limit: Cadmium occurs naturally with mining rock phosphate in Morocco, whereas Russia’s phosphates are naturally lower in cadmium.

Next steps

8 Member States already have rules for lower cadmium levels (CZ, DE, DK, FI, HU, NL, SE, SK) – these will be protected, should the process complete as expected. This, along with the voluntary label and review should encourage lower cadmium levels in fertilizers. The provisional agreement still to be approved by MEPs and member states, but this is seen as likely.

Formally, this will involve “the provisional agreement being confirmed by EU member states’ ambassadors (Coreper) and by Parliament’s Internal Market Committee. The draft regulation will then be put to a vote by the full Parliament in an upcoming plenary session and formally approved by the EU Council of Ministers.”

More on Cadmium on ARC2020

Itai-itai! Cadmium, Mineral Fertilizers & a Tale of Two Reports

Three Big European Parliament Votes Rock Corporate Ag

Open Letter: Revision of the EU fertiliser regulation and cadmium

The Three Most Important Human Health Implications of Organic Food

Oliver Moore
About Oliver Moore 185 Articles
DR. Oliver Moore is the communications director and editor-in-chief with ARC2020. He has a PhD in the sociology of farming and food, where he specialised in organics and direct sales. He is published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. A weekly columnist and contributor with Irish Examiner, he is a regular on Countrywide (Irish farm radio show on the national broadcaster RTE 1) and engages in other communications work around agri-food and rural issues, such as with the soil, permaculture, climate change adaptation and citizen science initiative Grow Observatory . He lectures part time in the Centre for Co-operative Studies UCC                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Oliver voyage beaucoup moins qu’auparavant, pour ce qui concerne son activité professionnelle. Il peut néanmoins admirer par la fenêtre de son bureau les mésanges charbonnières et les corbeaux perchés au sommet du saule dans le jardin de sa maison au cœur de l’écovillage de Cloughjordan, en Irlande. L’écovillage est un site de 67 acres dans le nord du Tipperary. Il comprend d’espaces boisés, des paysages comestibles, des lieux de vie, d’habitation et de travail, ainsi qu’une ferme appartenant à la communauté. Les jours où il travaille dans le bureau du centre d’entreprise communautaire, il profite d’une vue sur les chevaux, les panneaux solaires, les toilettes sèches et les jardins familiaux.  Ce bureau au sein de l’écovillage constitue en effet un tiers-lieu de travail accueillant également des collaborateurs des associations Cultivate et Ecolise, ainsi qu’un laboratoire de fabrication (« fab lab »).  Oliver est membre du conseil d’administration de la ferme communautaire (pour la seconde fois !) et donne également des cours sur le Master en coopératives, agroalimentaire et développement durable à l’University College Cork. Il a une formation en sociologie rurale : son doctorat et les articles qu’il publie dans des journaux scientifiques portent sur ce domaine au sens large. Il consacre la majorité de son temps de travail à l’ARC 2020. Il collabore avec ARC depuis 2013, date à laquelle l’Irlande a assuré la présidence de l’UE pendant six mois. C’est là qu’il a pu constater l’importance de la politique agroalimentaire et rurale grâce à sa chronique hebdomadaire sur le site d’ARC. Après six mois, il est nommé rédacteur en chef et responsable de la communication, poste qu’il occupe toujours aujourd’hui. Oliver supervise le contenu du site web et des médias sociaux, aide à définir l’orientation de l’organisation et parfois même rédige un article pour le site web.  À l’époque où on voyageait davantage, il a eu la chance de passer du temps sous les tropiques, où il a aidé des ONG irlandaises de commerce équitable – au Ghana, au Kenya, au Mali, en Inde et au Salvador – à raconter leur histoire.  Il se peut que ces jours-là reviennent. Pour son compte Oliver continuera de préférer naviguer en Europe par bateau, puis en train. Après tout, la France n’est qu’à une nuit de navigation. En attendant, il y a toujours de nombreuses possibilités de bénévolat dans la communauté dans les campagnes du centre de l’Irlande.