EU pesticide rules blamed for fall in R&D spend

The EU’s onerous pesticide regulations are being blamed for a sharp fall in research and development spend on new products aimed at the European farmers.

This is according to a new study by agribusiness consultant firm Phillips McDougall, which highlighted that the share of world agricultural research and development funds put into developing new crop protection products for the European market had fallen sharply from 33% in the 1980s to just 16% today.

As a result, the number of new active ingredients being developed and introduced in the EU is decreasing despite an increase in global expenditure on agricultural R&D.

The decline in Europe’s share of global R&D investment across the agricultural life sciences sector (ie including GM-related research) is even more marked, down from 33% in the 1980s to 7.7% today.

According to the Crop Protection Association chief executive Nick von Westenholz, the withdrawal of research investment from Europe is a straightforward commercial response to Europe’s challenging regulatory environment. “And it is one that deprives Europe’s farmers of new crop protection solutions that would help them meet the growing demand for healthy and affordable food.

“Crop protection and life sciences are global, research-based industries. The EU has the most hostile and unpredictable regulatory environment for pesticides and GM technology, and it is hardly surprising that when companies assess the risk involved in committing resources to R&D for new products, they are increasingly likely to overlook the EU,” he says.

“This study shows that the rate of new product introductions in the EU crop protection sector has fallen by 70% since the 1990s. Coupled with the impact of new hazard-based cut-off criteria in removing current crop protection tools, European agriculture is facing a crop protection crunch as more products are lost than can be replaced.”

He adds that the EU must promote a more progressive and science-based regulatory environment. “The crop protection industry is ready to work with all relevant stakeholders and regulators to reverse the decline in EU research and development, so that Europe’s farmers can benefit from the same new products and innovative technologies.”

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