On the 22nd of June, the European Commission (EC) presented a proposal to force a 50% reduction in the use of chemical pesticides in the European Union by 2030, which will result in different national targets, depending on the starting situation of each Member State.
According to Politico, however, EU officials already foresee resistance from governments, farmers and pesticide producers. Some of the reasons for the resistance include the war in Ukraine and its multiple side effects, the drought affecting several parts of Europe, as well as the inflation seen across the globe which has had an effect on farmers’ pockets.
Pesticide producers would be affected by the new proposal and have manifested their concern. The Brussels Times reports that German multinational Bayer has been lobbying against the switch away from pesticides. According to Bayer, Glyphosate and other similar pesticides are “safe”. When used “correctly”, there ought to be “no need for concern about their use.”
Politico has had access to an unofficial list of the EC’s targets for 25 EU countries, and Italy appears at the top with the challenging task to cut the use and risk of pesticides by 62%. Meanwhile, Germany must reduce its share by 55%, followed by France and Spain both by 54%.
The EC is aware of the challenges the new regulation might bring. To offset the impact on farmers who will have to make a special effort to adjust to the new rules, the EC proposed that they can benefit from Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) support for five years. “For the first time we are proposing mandatory reduction targets, clear objectives and rules that will reduce by 50% the use of pesticides in the EU by 2030,” said the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides.
In June, the commissioner specified that it will not impose a “one size fits all approach”, but that the proposed rules will take into consideration historical and national progress in the use of pesticides in each Member State when setting national targets.
Commissioner Kyriakides highlighted that the CAP rules had been changed to support farmers financially to cover the costs of all these rules and requirements for a period of five years. “The proposal will contribute to building sustainable food systems in line with the European Green Pact and the Farm to Fork strategy, while ensuring lasting food security and protecting our health,” the Commission said in a statement.
Brussels presented the pesticides initiative as part of a package of proposals to help make the so-called “Green Deal” a reality, which also includes rules aimed at restoring biodiversity in the EU by 2050.
Issuing its proposal, the EC recalled that scientists and citizens are increasingly concerned about the use of pesticides and the accumulation of their residues and metabolites in the environment” and that precisely the Conference on the Future of Europe, in which Europeans from all countries participated, specifically called for addressing the use and risk of pesticides. According to Politico, however, countries such as Poland, Lithuania and Romania have criticized the scientific methodology underpinning the national targets.
Brussels considers that the current regulations on pesticides have proved to be too weak and thus set the goal of reducing the use and risk of chemical pesticides and the use of the most hazardous pesticides by 50% by 2030. Member States will set their own national reduction targets within benchmarks to ensure that the EU-wide targets are achieved.
It sets out new rules on pest control, which will ensure that all farmers and other professional users practice integrated pest management.Member States will have to establish crop-specific standards and identify alternatives to chemical pesticides.
The new EC proposal is part of a package of measures to reduce the environmental footprint of the EU’s food system and help mitigate the economic losses that we are already suffering due to climate change and biodiversity loss. The main measures include:
- Legally binding targets at EU level to reduce by 50% the use and the risk of chemical pesticides as well as the use of the more hazardous pesticides by 2030. Member States will set their own national reduction targets within defined parameters to ensure that the EU wide targets are achieved.
- Environmentally friendly pest control: New measures will ensure that all farmers and other professional pesticide users practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This is an environmentally friendly system of pest control which focuses on pest prevention and prioritizes alternative pest control methods, with chemical pesticides only used as a last resort.
- A ban on all pesticides in sensitive areas: The use of all pesticides is prohibited in places such as urban green areas, including public parks or gardens, playgrounds, recreation or sports grounds, public paths as well as protected areas in accordance with Natura 2000 and any ecologically sensitive area to be preserved for threatened pollinators.
Other key measures include requiring Member States to set positive targets to increase the use of non-chemical pest control methods and requiring farmers and other professional users of pesticides to obtain independent advice on alternative methods to ensure greater uptake of non-chemical pest control methods. The proposal transforms the existing Directive into a Regulation which will be directly binding and uniformly applicable to all Member States.
In the face of the many stakeholders’ resistance, Commissioner Kyriakides has defended the EC’s proposal. She maintains the countries’ concerns have been kept in mind the whole time.