Scientists from across the EU presented a petition to the European parliament today (Monday, 8 December) to express their concern at the rate at which crop protection products are being removed from the market.

The group of 72 independent and government scientists said that fewer active ingredients would inevitably lead to problems, as pests that were regularly treated with just a single product would develop resistance

“European agriculture is not in a position to be losing more active ingredients,” said Prof John Lucas, head of plant pathology at Rothamsted Research, who delivered the petition. “We fear that we will not be able to replace the substances banned at the speed that policymakers believe.

“The [pesticide] industry is only able to launch about five new active ingredients per year. This is 10 times less than the rate at which they have been removed from the market.

“Pests develop resistance faster than the industry finds solutions. European farmers are already facing resistance problems as a result of a limited crop protection portfolio.”

The petition was presented to Conservative MEP Robert Sturdy, who sits on the European parliament’s Environment committee.

“If some MEPs get their way, EU agriculture and food production will be seriously threatened,” he said. “Pesticides are essential if we are to meet the growing demand for food.”

Meetings between the European parliament, the EU Commission and the French presidency will resume this week, with the three main bodies trying to reach an accord on the new rules for pesticide approvals.

A recent impact assessment by the UK Pesticides Safety Directorate shows that, at best, this will lead to 14% of products being removed from the market. At worse, 23% could go.