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27th Sep 2021

MEPs call for binding targets on cutting pesticides

  • MEPs also stressed the need to improve the approval process of pesticides - and better monitor implementation (Photo: Aqua Mechanical)
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Members of the European Parliament's environment and agriculture committee on Friday (10 September) adopted a joint position on the Farm to Fork strategy - calling for binding targets to reduce pesticide use in the EU.

Cross-party lawmakers finally reached common ground over the more than 2,200 amendments to the report - which is now expected to receive full support by the plenary in early October.

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While a non-binding text, the strategy has gained special attention in the context of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform, as it includes several targets and provisions setting the direction for Europe's agriculture in the coming decades.

For example, it aims to reduce, over the next decade, the use and risk of chemical and more hazardous pesticides by 50 percent and the use of fertilisers by 20 percent.

"These targets are well within reach," MEPs said in the report.

But they must be legally-binding and included in member states' national CAP strategic plans, they added. These plans, which must be submitted later this year, have to be approved by the European Commission to enable payments to farmers.

MEPs also stressed the need to improve the approval process of pesticides, and better monitor implementation.

Meanwhile, a clear call was made to ensure coherence between the Farm to Fork strategy and the CAP and trade policy, pointing out the need to reduce the EU market's dependency on food imports and ensure that imports of animal products also meet EU standards.

According to Green MEP Tilly Metz, translating the strategy into the CAP remains a crucial question. "Without a sustainable agricultural policy, the important implementation of the ambitious farm to fork strategy looks bad".

Additionally, MEPs argued that a specific target to reduce emissions from agriculture and related land use is needed as part of the "Fit-for-55" package, stressing the need to maintain and restore natural carbon sinks.

On animal welfare, they also reiterate their call on the European Commission to present a legislative proposal to phase out the use of cages in EU animal farming - possibly by 2027.

No plant promotion

Meanwhile, amendments calling to promote more plant-based diets and reduce red and processed meat were rejected by the majority of MEPs, who instead agreed "to address the overconsumption of meat and ultra-processed products".

Reducing the consumption of meat is seen by many green groups as an essential step to reduce agricultural emissions and pressure on biodiversity.

Currently, the livestock industry is estimated to be responsible for about 21 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions.

Overall, the report has been welcomed by green NGOs who see the strategy as a potential game-changer in the transition towards a more sustainable food system.

On the other hand, agri-food lobby Copa-Cogeca said that several proposals "cross the red lines and quite simply call into question our food sovereignty, the future of our agriculture and our rural areas".

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