Specific targets for cutting pesticide use on farms have been dropped by EU farm ministers, who reached a political agreement this week on a new draft Directive on the sustainable use of pesticides.

Last October, the European parliament sought to make it compulsory for member states to set their own reduction targets on spray use. Some Euro-MPs had suggested that cuts of 25% over five years and 50% over 10 years would be appropriate.

But the agreement reached by farm ministers this week drops all references to these targets.

Similarly, a call by the European parliament for there to be “substantial” no-spray zones around areas of housing has also been abandoned.

Instead, the draft Directive limits itself to establishing National Action Plans with rules on equipment inspections and chemical storage. A ban on aerial spraying is also included, except in special circumstances.

The draft Directive now returns to the European parliament for a second reading in the spring. It remains to be seen how hard it fights to reinstate reduction targets and no-spray zones.