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Daily News Blog

13
Apr

Hearing to Phase Out 80% of Synthetic Pesticides by 2030 Makes Waves in the European Parliament, Ultimately Rejected

(Beyond Pesticides, April 13, 2023) Representatives of the 1.2 million-strong “Save bees and farmers! Towards a bee-friendly agriculture for a healthy environment,” European Citizens Initiative (ECI) called on the European Commission in a public hearing “to propose legal acts to phase out synthetic pesticides in EU (European Union) agriculture by 80% by 2030, starting with the most hazardous, and to become free of synthetic by 2035.” Advocates outlined the scientific consensus that biodiversity loss is endangering both the environment and food security and urged the executive branch to take immediate action. [See Previous Article]

The timing is opportune as the Commission recently announced a revised EU Pollinators Initiative (PI), aimed at reversing the decline in wild pollinators by 2030. Noted as “the key instrument to reduce the risk and use of pesticides” by Environment and Oceans Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, the PI focuses on mitigating pesticides’ impact on pollinators as vital components to food security alongside conservation and restoration efforts of species and habitats in agricultural landscapes, or in other words, “pollinator-friendly farming.”

According to Martin Dermine, the executive director of PAN Europe, the hearing was a “strong democratic signal to EU and national decision-makers to listen to citizens and move away from toxic pesticides.”

It is clear that their voices were heard, as an organic farmer and lawmaker Sarah Wiener of Austria shifted the conversation by authoring a European Parliament report proposing the 80% increase with stricter baselines measuring the member states’ reductions. The baseline years referenced for measuring a state’s pesticide use are more recent (2018-2020 versus 2015-2017), thereby requiring countries that have reduced pesticide usage to nationally phase out a greater percentage of toxic agents within seven years.

Additionally, Ms. Wiener’s language breaks normative barriers; in the first amendment, the phrase “on the sustainable use of plant production products” is replaced with the phrase “on the use of pesticides.” According to the justification, the former phrase “trivializ[es] the nature of these products” and challenges the notion that chemical pesticides can be used sustainably, “especially as alternatives exist.”  Beyond semantics, the amendment’s text reflects a foundational shift as the direct use of the word “pesticides” makes greenwashing less likely and zeroes in on the reality of these noxious chemicals’ impact.

Negative public perception of pesticides has recently transformed the European zeitgeist. From 1.7 million citizens (about twice the population of Delaware) signing an initiative protecting bees in Bavaria to the “Stop pesticides” protests in Italy, grassroots movements are publicly voicing opposition to destructive environmental, agricultural, and pesticide policies. However, in contrast with citizens’ concerns, member states are opposing proposals perceived as ‘penalizing’ states that have more recently begun to reduce their pesticide use and removing exceptions, or “emergency derogations,” for pesticide use on a case-by-case emergency basis.  

Positive responses resonated from Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI) and among the center-left, Left and green policymakers, including the European Commission’s Claire Bury, the Deputy Director-General of Food and Health Safety. According to Commissioner Bury, European citizens clearly “want healthy food without pesticides” and stressed a progressive, but ambitious action accelerating access to biological alternatives. However, Parliament’s center-right and proponents of the flagship “Farm to Fork” strategy sharply rebuked the effort with false narratives stoking fears of food safety.

According to Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, a majority of member states advocated for a further impact assessment on the European Commission’s proposal before negotiations with the European Parliament, a delay tactic decried by green groups.  

However, on April 5, 2023 the Commission ultimately rejected the initiative signed by more than one million people, which requested EU-binding targets to reduce synthetic pesticides by 80% in 2030 and a total ban by 2035.

What comes next?

In alignment with organic advocates in agriculture, Beyond Pesticides champions widespread adoption of organic, regenerative systems and practices. Such systems may include mechanical and biological controls, trap crops, natural barriers, organic compatible inputs, and practices such as eliminating monocultures, adopting crop rotation, introducing beneficial predator insects, and a focus on building healthy, “living” soils.

Over 90 years after pesticides were first introduced in the United States, agricultural communities around the globe are still dependent on them, with 44% of farmers estimated to be poisoned by pesticides annually. According to advocates, what is necessary, in Europe, the United States, and around the world, is education around viable alternatives to harmful pesticides and grassroots support for a feasible transition economically to a holistic organic solution.

Ending toxic, petrochemical pesticides and fertilizer use in organic systems will alleviate the harmful impacts of these chemicals on species and ecosystem health. Beyond Pesticides captured the bigger picture in its introduction to its 2017 National Pesticide Forum, Healthy Hives, Healthy Lives, Healthy Land: “Complex biological communities support life.” Learn more about the science and resources behind pesticides’ impact on pollinators, including bee pollinator decline, and take action against the use of pesticides. To find out more about what you can do to protect bees and other pollinators, check out information on the BEE Protective Campaignpollinator-friendly landscapespollinator-friendly seedspesticide-free zonesbee-friendly habitats, and what you, or your state representative, can do to protect our pollinators. For more information on the insect apocalypse, see Beyond Pesticides’ article in the Pesticides and You journal, “Tracking Biodiversity: Study Cites Insect Extinction and Ecological Collapse.”

Visit the Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage to learn more about the adverse health and environmental effects chemical-intensive farming poses for various crops and how eating organic produce reduces pesticide exposure. Buyinggrowing, and supporting organic agriculture eliminate the extensive use of pesticides in the environment, protecting vulnerable pollinators. Organic land management eliminates the need for toxic agricultural pesticides. For more information on how organic is the right choice for consumers and the farmworkers who grow our food, see the Beyond Pesticides webpage, Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture

Spring is around the corner, so get ready to grow your spring garden the organic way by Springing Into Action, pledging to eliminate toxic pesticide use.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Euractiv

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