British farming’s demands for a more realistic approach to pesticide approvals have this week been put to the European parliament’s environment committee in Brussels.

Using the occasion of a European Voice conference on pesticides, Farmers Weekly’s economics editor, Philip Clarke, presented the magazine’s Save Our Sprays petition to German Green MEP Hiltrud Breyer, who is currently overseeing the passage of the legislation through the European parliament.

A detailed synopsis of our SOS campaign is also being sent to the 67 MEPs who sit on the influential environment committee, and to the EU Commission and farm council.

More than 1600 farmers, agronomists and industry stakeholders have signed the SOS petition, together with members of the public and farmers from other member states. They make two key demands.

SOS

Philip Clarke presents Farmers Weekly’s petition to MEP Hiltrud Breyer.

First, there must be a new impact assessment by the EU to fully explore the effects on food supply and food prices of moving to a system where pesticides are banned just because they contain potentially hazardous active ingredients.

Second, the European parliament should not introduce any more cut-off criteria beyond the four already agreed by EU farm ministers in their “common position”, namely carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic and endocrine-disrupting.

The UK’s Pesticides Safety Directorate has estimated that, even applying these more modest cut-offs, up to 15% of current plant protection products could go. With the European parliament’s extra criteria, including a ban on substances that are neurotoxic and immunotoxic, about 85% are at threat.

But receiving the Farmers Weekly petition, Ms Breyer said she had major doubts about the accuracy of the PSD’s claims. They were based on incorrect definitions and were designed to create panic, she said. “The figures are absurd.”

However, the PSD insisted its findings were robust, based on the best information at the time. Assessments in other member states had reached very similar conclusions, said head of approvals Peter Chapman.

NFU vice-president Paul Temple told the conference EU agriculture had a moral obligation to produce food. Banning certain pesticides would result in increased imports from countries using the same products, as long as they met EU maximum residue limits.