Slow Food: “The EU Commission’s draft proposal to regulate the use of pesticides is an empty shell”

An early version of the European Commission’s new Regulation on the Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products (SUR), that aims to replace the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (SUD) in regulating the use of pesticides, was just released, and its content is far from satisfying. Rather, it undermines the ambition of the EU Green Deal and fails to present a vision for a pesticide-free Europe.

This draft shows an unwillingness to listen to EU citizens who have made explicitly clear that a drastic change is needed in the way we produce food. Over 1 million citizens signed the call for a phase out of synthetic pesticides by 2035 and for adequate support to be given to farmers to reduce their dependency on these chemicals in the ECI Save Bees and Farmers. This is in addition to an earlier ECI calling for banning the use of Glyphosate. The urgency to move away from the use of pesticides is clear, so what is the Commission waiting for?”, comments Madeleine Coste, policy officer at Slow Food Europe.

While the European Commission acknowledges the “divergent & uneven” implementation, application & enforcement of the current Directive & the “failure to sufficiently achieve its overall objective”, solutions to drive European agriculture away from hazardous chemicals remain mostly absent from its new draft.

Slow Food welcomes the proposal for a regulation rather than a directive, which means the measures will be enforceable by law in all Member States and could level the playing field among farmers across EU countries, as stated by the Commission. But this encouraging point is outweighed by the legislative text’s many shortcomings.

In the same vein as the recently adopted Common Agricultural Policy reform, too few means and resources are foreseen to drive a real reduction in the use of synthetic pesticides. In addition to there being no budget allocated to encouraging the uptake of Integrated Pest Management which represents the bare minimum practices, the document proposes to “incentivize the development of precision farming” which is a clear sign the Commission would rather pursue techno-fixes than set in motion the needed transformation of our food system.

Back in March 2021, Slow Food answered the European Commission’s public consultation on the SUD, with three mains demands:

  • Set binding targets on the reduction of the risk and use of synthetic pesticides
  • Improve the data collection on the use of pesticides
  • Promote agroecology and the uptake of alternatives to synthetic pesticides

The EU Commission’s draft is light years away from providing the necessary means to reach these objectives.

As Madeleine Coste states, “the proposal to ban the use of pesticides in areas used by vulnerable groups and in sensitive areas such as Natura 2000 sites obviously goes in the right direction, but as long as Member States remain free to set their own targets, Integrated Pest Management is not made mandatory for farmers, and implementation is not enforced through effective controls and sanctions, there is little hope that the new SUR will bring about a significant shift away from the dependence of pesticides the SUD evidently failed to bring.”

The decades of continued industrialization of our agriculture and food system have significantly contributed to a dramatic decline in biodiversity, the contamination of our soil and water, and the presence of chemicals in Europeans’ food. A recent study published by Environmental Science and Pollution Research (ESPR) analyzing the glyphosate levels amongst the French population, shows a general contamination with glyphosate quantifiable in 99.8% of urine samples, and confirms that contamination happens via ingestion and inhalation. Although farmers and their families are the prime victims of pesticides’ toxicity, the entire population is at risk of developing health problems on the long run.

The EU Commission endorsed the EU Green Deal (that includes the EU Biodiversity and the EU Farm to Fork Strategies), in a first step to make Europe greener and more sustainable: is it high time to deliver on these promises!  

What Europe needs are diversified agroecological food systems, based on farming agrobiodiversity, with lower dependency on external inputs, stimulating social relationships and short-supply chains, to build long-term healthy agroecosystems and secure livelihoods.

Agroecological farmers have proven time and time again that a different type of farming is possible and viable – we now need a much greater push to help all farmers transition towards pesticide-free agriculture.


Slow Food Press Office

Alice Poiron – [email protected] (+32) 473 77 07 39

Paola Nano – [email protected] (+39) 329 8321285

Alessia Pautasso – [email protected] (+39) 342 8641029

Slow Food is a worldwide network of local communities founded in 1989 to fight the disappearance of local food traditions and the spread of fast food culture. Since then Slow Food has grown into a global movement that involves millions of people in more than 160 countries and works to ensure that we can all have access to good, clean and fair food.

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