Pesticides campaign gathering support among UK MEPs

The arable industry’s campaign to reduce the impact of proposed EU pesticides approval legislation is gaining support from UK MEPs, but much more lobbying is required in other member states, campaign stakeholders heard at their latest meeting on Monday [8 September].

Lobbying of UK MEPs had generally met with a positive response, stakeholders agreed, with some Labour MEPs, who at the first reading voted for the more extreme European Parliament’s environment committee’s proposals, now suggesting they would vote for the more moderate European Commission proposals, Dominic Dyer of the Crop Protection Association said.

“We’re beginning to see some movement away from the hard line they previously had.”

Where MEPs had responded less positively it seemed to be because there was a perception that the agrochemical industry would either develop new products that met the cut-off criteria by the time the Directive was enforced, or be able to apply successfully for derogations, Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium, suggested.

That also appeared to be the view of some DEFRA civil servants, Velcourt’s Keith Norman said.

But BASF’s John Peck said it took 10 years to develop new actives, and that the industry still didn’t know what criteria it would be working to.

Derogations were also far from the saviour painted by some MEPs, Paul Chambers of the NFU said. “As we understand it, you need to get total EU approval, and they are not contrary to some people’s belief, renewable.”

Those two issues by themselves meant that to use the system practically and have products available when needed would be unlikely, he explained.

There was also a general feeling that the UK was still isolated in Europe, and that more pressure needed to be applied to other countries MEPs. “That is starting to happen,” Paul Chambers said.

But Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium said it was finding it difficult to engage with other retailers in Europe. “One of the problems is that the [PSD] impact assessment is skewed towards the impact on farmers. We need something that shows the impact on retail prices.”

Trying to persuade the commission to carry out an EU-wide impact assessment, as called for by the Farmers Weekly’s Save our Sprays campaign, continued to be a central plank in the fight, Mr Dyer said.

Any impact assessment must include the legislation’s impact on food production and prices, he stressed.
UK government had already requested a new impact assessment, but the EU’s health commission, DGSanco, had not responded, he said.

“We need to help the UK government make its case and bring other countries along. If we can get this brought up at head of government level then it is unlikely the French presidency will be able to refuse.

“It is critical we drive that debate so MEPs know what this legislation means. At the moment they do not fully understand what they are voting for.”

But the commission was under no legal obligation to do an EU-wide impact assessment, he admitted.

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