Farming organisations have expressed anger and dismay at the European parliament environment committee’s decision on Wednesday (5 November) to put extra constraints on pesticide approvals.
Even though the proposals adopted were an improvement on the position taken by the European parliament at the first reading a year ago, they still go further than the “common position” agreed between the EU Commission and agriculture ministers in June.
“The environment committee has failed to understand that having an armoury of plant protection products available to farmers is essential to ensure that a sufficient supply of safe and affordable food is produced to meet rising world demand,” said NFU president Peter Kendall.
NFU Scotland president Jim McLaren said the vote was “a real step backwards” that would have significant ramifications for the quality and quantity of food available. And Ulster Farmers Union president Graham Furey said the decision was “disconnected from the reality of food production in Northern Ireland”.
The European Crop Protection Association also condemned the vote. “Crude hazard-based cut-off criteria will have a serious negative impact on sustainable agriculture and environmental protection,” said ECPA director general Friedhelm Schmider.
Farmers Weekly‘s SOS campaign manager Philip Clarke says the latest environment committee position, which was approved by a two-to-one majority, is better than what it was calling for a year ago.
While it is still seeking to add more cut-off criteria to the four already agreed by the commission and the council, and to add extra protection for bees, it has refined its definition of a “persistent organic pollutant” so that far fewer products will fall foul of this requirement.
The environment committee has also clarified its plans for pesticides that are considered “candidates for substitution”, which may now be reapproved for use if no safer alternatives are available.
Early industry estimates suggest that up to 20% of pesticides could now be removed from the market, as opposed to the 85% that were under threat after the first reading.
“This is not perfect, but it is better,” said Mr Clarke. “It shows that industry lobbying and initiatives such as the Farmers Weekly Save Our Sprays campaign are starting to pay off.”
One major disappointment is that the MEPs rejected a call for a new impact assessment – one of the key demands of the SOS Campaign. It also wants “pesticide passports” and ten year record keeping introduced.
Farmers Weekly and the rest of the industry will continue to press for an impact assessment and other improvements in the run-up to the full and final European parliament vote in January.