Thursday

28th Jan 2021

Green Deal

EU wants to halve use of pesticides by 2030

  • A third of food consumed in the EU in 2018 contained residues of two or more pesticides, including illegal products, according to the European Food Safety Authority (Photo: jetsandzeppelins)

The European Commission wants to reduce the use of chemical pesticides in the EU by 50 percent over the next decade, in a benchmark established by the new Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategy on Wednesday (20 May).

However, the definitive target will be subjected to the results of a risk assessment that the commission plans to put forward before 2022 - when the existing rules on the sustainable use of pesticides will need to be updated.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Chemical pesticides are used for the protection of plants and crops, but they are also potentially toxic to humans, bees and other pollinators.

In 2018, a third of the food consumed in the EU contained residues of two or more pesticides, including illegal pesticides that are not approved to be used in the EU, according to the European Food Safety Authority.

This is why over 80 NGOs and over 300,000 citizens have called repeatedly on the commission for a much higher 80 percent reduction target of chemical pesticides, and to achieve their full phase-out by 2035.

However, even the reduction target proposed by the commission is not "realistic" according to the industry.

"A reduction rate of 50 percent by 2030 is not realistic and will not have the desired effect of having a more sustainable food production model in Europe," said the director-general of the European Crop Protection Association, Géraldine Kutas.

"Thanks to advances in crop protection products, on average, there has been a 97 percent reduction [in the use of these products] compared to what was required in the 1960s," she added.

Meanwhile, MEPs from the European Conservatives and Reformists and the European People's Party groups have previously asked the commission to postpone the strategy until the Covid-19 crisis is over.

Liberal MEP Pascal Canfin, who chairs the European Parliament environment committee, welcomed the commission's proposal and committed to making it mandatory in the ongoing reform of the Common Agriculture Policy.

However, Canfin bemoaned the lack of reaction to parliament's requests to reduce the market presence of "bee-killing pesticides which have been suffering a hecatomb [huge sacrifice] for several decades in Europe".

Bee-killing pesticides

The number of bee colonies has declined by more than 50 percent in some member states.

This is why the biodiversity strategy states that at least 10 percent of the utilised agricultural area should be reserved for wild animals, plants, pollinators and natural pest regulators.

Studies from across Europe show that if a minimum of 10-14 percent of agricultural land is left to nature, then pollinators would recover.

Besides pathogens and parasites, one of the biggest threats to honeybees is the common exposure to pesticides used in agriculture.

Earlier this year, the European Court of Auditors concluded that the commission has not been able to accurately monitor the risk of pesticides due to the lack of detailed, harmonised and updated data among member states.

Similarly, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) denounced that there is no conclusive data about the precise amount of pesticides used in the EU's agricultural sector.

The EU's executive body aims to revise the pesticides statistics regulation to overcome such data gaps in 2023.

Fertilisers

Additionally, the Farm to Fork strategy aims to reduce the excess of nutrients - especially nitrogen and phosphorus - in the environment, by reducing at least 20 percent of the use of fertilisers by 2030.

The commission, together with member states, will put forward an 'integrated nutrient management action plan' to address nutrient pollution - with extra measures, if necessary.

However, some NGOs slammed the commission's strategy as 'half-baked'.

"The Farm to Fork Strategy leaves the door open for weakening GMO [genetically modified organism] safety laws, remains dangerously weak on pesticides and industrial animal agriculture," said Mute Schimpf from NGO Friends of the Earth Europe.

"Agribusiness executives will sleep well tonight," she added.

Coronavirus

Study: Green post-virus stimulus is 'life or death'

Oxford University study says fiscal stimulus for green projects offer higher returns on government spending in the short and long term than traditional incentives on fossil fuels.

News in Brief

  1. Putin holds out olive branch to Europe
  2. US snatched Russian anti-air system from Libya warlord
  3. UK to extradite alleged trafficker to EU despite Brexit
  4. EU puts trust in Boeing 737s after post-crash ban
  5. EU animal-export trade under harsh spotlight
  6. City of London wants to set rules for EU
  7. MEPs want 2030 targets to reduce consumption footprint
  8. Coronavirus cases worldwide pass 100m

Livestream

Live: Join the Nordic climate debate 'Choosing Green'

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has stalled climate negotiations, work has not stopped. The 'Choosing Green' debate will address some of the most important and most complex key areas relating to the global green transition. Live on EUobserver from 10:00 (CET).

Timmermans 'disappointed' with ongoing CAP reform

For European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, the Common Agricultural Policy has to answer to "higher expectations" on climate action, protection of biodiversity and environmental sustainability, while ensuring a fair income for all farmers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. Poland imposes anti-abortion law amid EU concern
  2. The EU's vaccine strategy - the key points
  3. EU-AstraZeneca row flares up after vaccines shortfall
  4. First Covid, now McKinsey - how austerity hit EU healthcare
  5. Frontex suspends operations in Hungary
  6. Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office
  7. MEPs: Portugal 'risks undermining' trust in EU prosecutor
  8. EU to control vaccine exports in row over delays

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us