A Summer off? Commission flip flops on NGTs and Pesticides


Photo by EMILI_VISION via istockphoto

While the debate intensifies around pesticides and new genomic techniques (NGTs), the European Commission appears to be in a political battle on many fronts as to whether these topics are on or off its agenda for the Summer.

(Updated 15.58 and 16.07 on 17/05/23 with new agenda as released during 17th May and with further information; updated 23.07 with information on SUR, deleting references to nature restoration law)

ARC2020 has seen three versions of the work agenda for the European Commission’s meetings for the summer period in the last 24 hours. The pesticide regulation appears in none of these. In two of these, NGTs appear, but scheduled for different dates each time.

The official agenda released of 25th April for May and June lists NGTs. A newer draft list seen by ARC2020, dated 15th May, which includes the period up to 12th September, does not. See images below. 

NGTs were proposed initially for June 7th, and were delayed supposedly until later in June or July. This proposal has been linked to the progress of the pesticides regulation – at least in the Commission’s eyes.

Another, later version of the agenda 17th May and seen by ARC2020 today, again lists NGTs, but this time for 5th July (see below, marked in red)

While in all cases, these working agendas are described as “tentative” and  “indicative”, it is nonetheless informative that NGTs are on and off the agenda. The context of these agri-environmental legislative moves is a fraught one.

Commissioner Timmermans, the main driver and responsible person for the EU Green Deal in the Commission, will be speaking at a meeting of both the Agricultural and Environment Committees in the Parliament next Monday 22nd – with the Environment Committee meeting listed as ‘extraordinary’ (i.e. unplanned). The Ombudsman has, on  24th February, opened a case on pesticides and the Commission’s guidance documents, following a complaint by an environmental NGO. 

See agenda for the extraordinary meeting of the Environment Committee of the European Parliament 22nd May 2023 

See agenda for the meeting of the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament 22nd May 2023 

Over 300 NGOs have written to Commissioner Timmermans  on 16th May to request a meeting  on NGTs, noting with “great concern” what they see as the Commissioner’s pro-deregulation stance. See letter here: 20230516-NGO-Letter-to-EVP-Timmermans-on-NGTs

The European People’s Party, which is the largest in the European Parliament, has recently adopted what it calls the “European Farmers’ Deal” its Munich Declaration, opposing both the Nature Restoration Law and the Sustainable use of Pesticides Regulation.

There are also compromise texts of the SUR circulating, again seen by ARC2020, which include the potential for national targets and Integrated Pest management to be non-binding and generally weaker.

For example, reference to  pesticides being allowable only after IPM methods have been “exhausted” has been changed to ‘considered’ in the latest compromise version of the text. This type of language now fills the compromise text, with a whole process for the relationship between the Commission and member states now deleted, in effect changing the relationship from binding to non-binding.

This process was to include the consideration of the feedback from a public consultation. 

With new Commission agendas being released so regularly, extraordinary meetings being called, compromise texts radically weakening the pesticide regulation, and with overall Commission President von Der Leyen surely at loggerheads with her own EPP party, there is clearly much political wrangling ongoing.  And if only NGTs make it onto the agenda, while the pesticide regulation does not, where then for the  ecological in the EU Green Deal? 


EPP Attacks Pesticide Regulation & the Nature Restoration Law

Are NGTs the Cure to our Pesticide Addiction?

GMO Deregulation Delayed – Where Are We At, Where Might We Be Going?

Nature Pushed to the Backburner – EU Round Up

France – Pesticides, Mega-Basins and Who Gets to do What