Agricultural pesticides may cause increased risk of Parkinson's disease: report

Tractor spraying pesticide on crops
Tractor spraying pesticide on crops Photo: fotokostic/DepositPhotos

Agricultural pesticides used in the Netherlands may cause Parkinson's disease. Farmers who work with these pesticides are up to 60 percent more likely to contract the incurable brain disease, epidemiologist Roel Vermeulen said to Zembla.

A number of agricultural pesticides associated with Parkinson's disease have been banned. But Mancozeb - a fungal killer that in composition shows great similarities to a substance banned two years ago - is still widely used in the Netherlands. Experiments have shown that Mancozeb causes similar nerve damage as the banned substance, Martin van den Berg, professor of toxicology at Utrecht University, said to Zembla. He called for Mancozeb to withdrawn from the market as a precaution.

Around 50 thousand people in the Netherlands suffer from Parkison's, a disease that impedes muscle control, fine motor skills and speech. In France, Parkinson's is now recognized as an occupational disease among farmers, according to NOS. 

Agriculture and horticulture organization LTO Nederland is shocked by Zembla's findings, spokesperson Esther de Snoo said to the broadcaster. "We did not know that these substances were unsafe", she said. "We assume that the resources we are allowed to use are safe enough. Growers must be able to rely on that. If it turns out that this is not the case, a reassessment must take place."

In the Netherlands, pesticides are assessed and approved by the board for the authorization of plant protection products and biocides CTGB. According to a European directive, pesticides must be reassessed every 10 years. Mancozeb is permitted until 2021 and is currently being tested again for safety for humans, animals and the environment.

Taking Mancozeb off the market as a precaution is going too far, CTGB spokesperson Hans van Boven said to NOS. "In the discussion about the link between pesticides and Parkinson's, the outcome is not black or white There are also studies in which no link is found. You must have a good basis in the Europeans directives to ward off a substance, otherwise you will get into a legal battle with producers that you may lose."