‘Five-a-day’ fruit and veg plan under threat

Consumers will struggle to get their “five a day” of fruit and vegetables if the European parliament presses on with plans to remove large numbers of pesticides from the market.

That is the warning this week from the three main bodies representing EU fruit and vegetable growers and processors (OEITFL, AREFLH and FRESHFEL).

“Whilst the fruit and vegetable sector is at the forefront in taking up integrated production methods and reducing chemical inputs, a sufficient range of plant protection solutions remains crucial to ensure the success of these techniques,” said a joint statement.

The new legislation is being considered as part of the review in Brussels of Directive 91/414, governing the approvals of pesticides.

A “common position” reached by EU agriculture ministers last June seeks to apply a number of “cut-off” criteria, which would automatically ban pesticides which contain certain hazardous active ingredients.

But, the European parliament wants to go further. At its first reading last year it sought to introduce even more cut-offs, which would take many more products off the market.

And this week the parliament’s raporteur Hiltrud Breyer tabled her report for “second reading”, containing all the same cut-offs that the parliament agreed to last year.

It remains to be seen if this report is watered down during the next three months of discussion.

But the EU fruit and vegetable sector is warning of dire consequences if it is not.

“Crops such as carrots or onions, but also brassicas, could practically lose all plant protection solutions presently available to them,” said the statement.

“Inevitable price increases would have a knock-on effect on fruit and vegetable consumption, at a time when the role of fruit and vegetables has never been as high on the public health policy priority list.

“The many health initiatives that call for increased consumption of fruit and vegetables among the EU’s population could be compromised due to insufficient fruit and vegetable availability and unaffordable prices.

“This is in clear contradiction with the EU political priority to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables.”

The statement goes on to call for a full impact assessment of the effects of the proposed legislation, before final decisions are made – one of the key demands of the Farmers Weekly Save Our Sprays (SOS) campaign.

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