Netherlands: Temporary allowance for disinfection product on trucks in fight against ToBRFV taken to court

A German producer and Dutch distributor of a disinfectant have gone to a Dutch court to challenge a temporary allowance of a biocide in the fight against ToBRFV on trucks. According to the companies, the temporary allowance is not fair, nor necessary. 
 
The Dutch Tribunal declared this appeal unfounded in the first instance last week. 
  
Both agents effective 
This case involves the third temporary exemption to allow Virkon S to be used to disinfect - briefly - trucks and containers transporting tomatoes. With the rise of the ToBRF virus, a means of combating the virus was sought. In doing so, the ministry chose Virkon S. 
  
Menno Florades, a disinfectant produced by German manufacturer Menno Chemie-Vertrieb GmbH and distributed by Royal Brinkman, was also examined by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). Based on research by Groen Agro Control, the Authority concluded that both agents are effective for disinfecting means of transport.  

The Dutch agricultural Ministry (LNV) eventually released a temporary exemption for Virkon S, meaning that the product can be used for disinfecting means. According to LNV's response to the objections, it is 'practically and economically feasible. "The application time for Virkon S is shorter than that for Menno Florades, the disinfectant, so it is more suitable for growers who have to deal with the virus." 
  
The application time is important to the Ministry, which says that the shorter application time of Virkon S 'makes it feasible for tomato growers to comply with their disinfection obligations reasonably'. The producer and distributor of Menno Florades dispute this and point to possibilities with their product with a shorter exposure time.  
  
Technical objections unfounded 
The objectors raised various objections. They point out that Virkon S is allowed in the Netherlands as a biocide for use in greenhouses and in areas intended for human habitation, but not for disinfecting means of transport. Because of this, the NVWA has chosen to use a temporary exemption. This involves a European regulation on 'acute threat in the cultivation of a crop'. 
  
The objectors point out that their agent is authorized and according to the authorization may also be applied to machines and containers. According to them, Menno Florades could also have received a temporary exemption with a shorter application period than stated in the authorization. They dispute the Ministry's choice of Virkon S, doubt the assessor at the Board for the Authorization of Plant Protection Products and Biocides (Ctgb) and also point to the other EU Member States where the virus is controlled without a temporary exemption.  
  
They also argue that there are differences in risk assessments at the European level between biocides and plant protection products and that there is international research showing that the incorporation time of Virkon S is longer and that the incorporation time of Menno Florades is shorter than that assumed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. 
  
Procedure point 
All objections were declared unfounded by the Board. However, the Board agrees with the objectors on a procedural point. The Board agrees that LNV should have immediately informed the European Commission about the use of the temporary exemption. That did not happen. However, the Board does not conclude that "the defendant has thereby lost its authority to grant the temporary exemption. 

Culling considered 
Remarkably, during the hearing, it was also shared that the culling of the tomato crops was also considered as one of the measures to control the ToBRF virus. Given the interests of the tomato growers and because most member states permit the culling of the crop, LNV ultimately decided on a less far-reaching measure which includes the obligation to disinfect means of transport in tomato cultivation.  
  
Read the entire ruling here.   
 
 


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