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Commission’s draft pesticides regulation fails in ambition on reducing use of pesticides and protecting biodiversity and human health

The upcoming proposal falls short in delivering the transformative changes needed to secure the EU’s transition towards agroecology in line with the Green Deal objectives.

These are the concerns expressed in a joint statement by more than 70+ NGOs on the legislative proposal “Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products” the European Commission is set to launch on 23 March as indicated by press reports.

Intended to replace the 2009 Directive on Sustainable Use of Pesticides, the draft regulation proposal worryingly promotes approaches still based on pesticide use, like precision farming.

To truly deliver on the pesticide reduction objectives of the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies, the NGOs call on the Commission to upgrade the proposal to establish ambitious and legally binding reduction targets in the use and risk of synthetic pesticides, immediately ban the use of more hazardous pesticides and initiate the agro-ecological transition for Europe.

Furthermore, they call for the name of the proposal to be changed, as the current name uses biased terminology introduced by the pesticide industry – the use of synthetic pesticides cannot be sustainable.

“It is high time to put citizens, including agricultural workers, and the environment first – this means a transition to agroecology for the benefit of nature and citizens alike” said Eva Corral, Senior Policy Officer on Pesticide and Water Pollution at the EEB.

The current EU Directive on Sustainable Use of Pesticides aimed to promote the use of integrated pest management and non-synthetic alternatives to pesticides, with synthetic pesticides used as a very last resort. However, these provisions have not been properly implemented by Member States and synthetic pesticides continue to accumulate in the environment and negatively impact citizens’ health.

The negative effects of pesticides on biodiversity, ecosystems and human health have grown increasingly evident [1][2], with science showing strong presumed links between exposure to serious illnesses in farm workers, such as Parkinson’s disease and cancer. [3][4]

Research has demonstrated that the reduction of pesticide use is possible without impacting the economic and productive performance of farms. [5]

Meanwhile, the benefits of agroecology are clear, having been shown to be able to feed Europeans a healthy diet, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, and help restore biodiversity and protect natural resources. [6]

ENDS

 

Notes to the editor

[1] L. Persson et al., Environ. Sci. Technol. 56, 3, 1510-1521 (2022). DOI : 10.1021/acs.est.1c04158

[2] K. Groh et al., Environ. Sci. Technol. 56, 2, 707–710 (2022). DOI : 10.1021/acs.est.1c08399

[3] French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERN), Collective Expert Review on the Health Effects of Pesticides (2021) https://www.inserm.fr/wp-content/uploads/inserm-collective-expert-report-pesticides2021-executive-summary.pdf

[4] https://www.lemonde.fr/le-monde-in-english/article/2022/02/16/poisoned-farmers-exposing-the-myth-of-pesticide-protection_6113871_5026681.html

[5]Lechenet et al., Reducing pesticide use while preserving crop productivity and profitability on arable farms (2017), https://www.inrae.fr/en/news/reducing-pesticide-use-agriculture-without-lowering-productivity

[6] Poux et al., An agroecological Europe in 2050: multifunctional agriculture for healthy eating. Findings from the Ten Years For Agroecology (TYFA). Iddri-AScA(2018): www.iddri.org/sites/default/files/PDF/Publications/Catalogue%20Iddri/Etude/201809-ST0918EN-tyfa.pdf