The EU Commission Must Do Better to Transition Away from Synthetic Pesticides 

70+ organizations make 10 demands to be urgently taken on board by the Commission for its new pesticide regulation  

Over 70 European organizations are sending a joint statement to European Commission Executive Vice-President Timmermans and Health & Food Safety Commissioner Kyriakides to express their deep concern about the lack of ambition of the Commission’s draft proposal for a “Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products” Regulation to be published on 23 March. They make 10 demands to reach an ambitious Regulation.  

Despite the obvious failure of the current Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (SUD) to reduce the use of pesticides in the EU, the Commission’s draft falls short in delivering the transformative changes needed to secure the EU’s transition towards agroecology. 

Perhaps we need to remind the Commission that 1.2 million European signed the “Save Bees and Farmers” Citizens’ Initiative in which we call for an 80% reduction of synthetic pesticides by 2030, and above all, a clear roadmap on how Europe will phase out the use of synthetic pesticides altogether by 2035. Without finally banning the use of highly damaging practices or setting the transition to agroecology as a clear objective for the Regulation, we cannot hope to see a true improvement over the SUD.” says Madeleine Coste, Policy Officer at Slow Food Europe. 

Whilst the organizations believe the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation will contribute to a better implementation of the policy, they consider many elements to be worrisome and make 10 demands to the Commission to improve their proposal for a new Regulation. These include upgrading the definition of “Integrated Pest Management” which must prioritize agroecological practices and excluding the incentivization of precision farming and genetic engineering techniques, “which will only maintain an industrial farming model and structural dependency on pesticides”. 

Martin Dermine, Health and Environment Policy Officer at PAN Europe comments: “We urgently need a system change in agriculture so that farmers start working with nature, instead of destroying it. The draft proposal does not bring that change. Furthermore, the proposal fails to protect citizens from pesticide spraying next to their homes and gardens or next to schools!” 

 Since the adoption of the SUD in 2009, there is increasing scientific evidence of the negative effects of pesticides, and of chemical cocktails on all ecosystems, biodiversity, and human health. The urgency of moving away from the use of synthetic pesticides is thus clear, while the transition to a sustainable and toxic-free food system based on agroecology is both possible and necessary as evidenced by studies from INRAE and IDDRI 

Angeliki Lyssimachou, Senior Science Policy Officer at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), says: “The European Commission and governments need to stop turning a blind eye to the devastating impacts that pesticides have on farmers, our health, and the environment. Setting ambitious and legally binding targets to phase out pesticides is an opportunity to prevent diseases linked to pesticide exposure, such as certain types of cancer and Parkinson’s disease, that the EU cannot afford to miss.” 

So, what is the European Commission waiting for?  

Clara Bourgin, Campaigner on Food, Agriculture and Nature at Friends of the Earth Europe adds: “Civil society is perfectly clear: we need ambitious and legally binding reduction targets for an agriculture that doesn’t poison our health and our environment. Farmers are already paving the way towards agroecology. They now need to be supported through concrete measures.” 

On March 1st , Commissioner Kyriakides, French agriculture minister De Normandie, and a number of Members of European Parliament will be speaking at PAN Europe’s 8th Symposium on the SUD. “We urge them to take this moment to truly listen to the scientific evidence and to our demands, and detail how they plan to phase out the use of synthetic pesticides in the EU, which, despite the Regulation’s name, is simply not “sustainable”,” concludes Madeleine Coste 

 Eva Corral, Senior Policy Officer on Pesticide and Water Pollution at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB): “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.” 

Lili Balogh, President of Agroecology Europe: “Agroecology sets the direction to achieve the Green Deal and showcases many different practices to reduce and eliminate the use of agricultural inputs including pesticides – all in harmony with nature. In these times of great tension in Europe, ensuring food security and sovereignty by reducing chemical inputs is not only a question of ecological and climatic emergency and public health but also a geopolitical issue.” 

Carla Chiaretti, Head of Policy at EurEau: “European water services expect a legislative proposal that effectively enhances the protection of water resources. The Zero Pollution action plan is clear: preventive action should be taken, and environmental damage should be rectified at the source: extra-treatment by drinking water operators is not sustainable and water users must not pay for the costs of removing pesticides; instead polluters should pay”. 



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