Commission Adopts Regulation to Half Pesticide Use by 2030 – But More Work Needed

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides photo (c) European Union 2022

After months of delays, the European Commission has adopted the Regulation on the Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products. The regulation proposes legally binding targets and annual reporting by Member States to reach a 50% reduction in pesticide use by 2030. There are however, some serious issues yet to be resolved. Unpacked by Ashley Parsons.

On June 22, the European Commission unveiled its new Regulation on the Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products (SUR). Dubbed the Nature Protection Package day, Wednesday also saw the Nature Restoration Law to combat degradation of nature and biodiversity loss in the EU introduced.

The SUR will require all Member States to set legally binding pesticide reduction targets and report annual progress. 

Reaching an EU-wide pesticide reduction of 50% is one of the main targets of the Green New Deal. Essential in reversing the biodiversity crisis, pesticide reduction also has health benefits for farmers, workers and people generally.

The Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides, said during the presentation of the new regulation that “we need to reduce the use of chemical pesticides to protect our soil, air and food, and ultimately the health of our citizens. This is not about banning pesticides. This is about making them a last resort measure.”

Presenting both the Nature Restoration Law and the regulation was Frans Timmerman: “When we restore nature, we allow it to continue providing clean air, water, and food, and we enable it to shield us from the worst of the climate crisis. Reducing pesticide use likewise helps nature recover, and protects the humans who work with these chemicals.”

By changing the directive to a regulation, pesticide reduction becomes a legally-binding endeavor. Member States will set their own pesticide reduction targets, and if they set targets below 50%, they will have to justify why. However there is still a process ahead, and some caveats to navigate.

What’s Inside

The regulation requires:

  • Legally binding targets at EU level to reduce by 50% the use and the risk of chemical pesticides as well as the use of the more hazardous pesticides by 2030. Member States will set their own national reduction targets within defined parameters to ensure that the EU wide targets are achieved.
  • Environmentally friendly pest control: New measures will ensure that all farmers and other professional pesticide users practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This is an environmentally friendly system of pest control which focuses on pest prevention and prioritises alternative pest control methods, with chemical pesticides only used as a last resort.
  • A ban on all pesticides in sensitive areas: The use of all pesticides is prohibited in places such as urban green areas, including public parks or gardens, playgrounds, recreation or sports grounds, public paths as well as protected areas in accordance with Natura 2000 and any ecologically sensitive area to be preserved for threatened pollinators.

Other details to note are that the regulation requires mandatory record keeping by farmers, as well as crop-specific rules identifying the alternatives to be used instead of chemical pesticides. Member States will submit annual reports on progress and implementation. The targets must be met by 2030, giving farmers and Member States time to adapt their practices. To help farmers, Member States must use at least 25% of their CAP direct income support budget for eco-schemes, 35% of their rural development budget for actions that benefit the climate and environment, including the reduction of farmers’ dependency on chemical pesticides. 

Reaction

Campaigning NGOs have welcomed the move, which was opposed by twelve member states, led by Estonia and Poland (see text here ST_10009_2022_INIT_x and here ST_7269_2022_INIT_x)

“Even though the proposal needs strong improvements, PAN Europe welcomes its publication so that democratic discussions can finally start” PAN Europe said in a statement.

However, there is still work to be done. One pressing issue is the indicator mechanism that measures progress. The results the indicator produces, misleadingly overestimates the risks of substances authorised in organic farming, and underestimates other, more dangerous synthetic products used in conventional agriculture. IFOAM EU covers this in more detail on Twitter, and in its indicator proposal, while  PAN-Europe covers it here.

PAN-Europe point out that the European Court of Auditors  has been calling for change in indicators since 2020. “The auditors explained that the supposed reduction indicated by the HRI-1 (Harmonised Risk Indicator 1) is mainly due to a decrease in sales of substances that are no longer approved, and not to an actual reduction in pesticide use.” 

PAN-Europe also point evidence presented in a briefing by GLOBAL 2000 on HRI-1  Quoting Helmut Burtscher-Schaden:

“A major misconception of the HRI-1 is that it establishes causality between the amount of pesticide used and the resulting risk, while largely ignoring existing differences in toxicity and treated area. Yet these differences amount to a factor between 10 and 1,000 when comparing synthetic active substances with naturally occurring active substances. Despite this, the HRI-1 attributes exactly the same risk to a kilogram of quartz sand – just sufficient to protect five trees from browsing by game – as to a kilogram of a pyrethroid insecticide – enough to kill every living insect over 200 hectares. To largely ignore these differences, as the HRI-1 does, inevitably leads to grotesquely wrong results.” 

The regulation must pass the Council and the European Parliament before it can take effect, so there is time to fix these issues will be during the co-decision making process. 

More

Nature Restoration Law: A Chance for the EU to Make Good on the Green Deal 

The Good Food Good Farming Pesticide Check-up

A Leaked Pesticide Regulation and a Political Merry Go Round

A Loud Lobby for a Silent Spring

Green Deal-ing – Mid February EU News Round

Commission’s Pesticide Proposals – what’s in them?

Ministers Move to Make Pesticide Reduction Targets Meaningless, New Reports Reveal

Undeniable Success of the ECI “Save bees and farmers”

Pesticide Poisonings – Numbers Revised Upwards Globally

Pesticide Drift – When Free Trade Dictates Thresholds

Ashley Parsons
About Ashley Parsons 13 Articles
On her 7000km journey from France to Kyrgyzstan on bicycle and horseback, daily interactions and sometimes long sojourns with rural farmers and grassroots organizations showed Ashley Parsons the resilience and strength of our rural communities. Ashley is a writer and journalist dedicated to exploring potential and existing systems of inclusive progress, whether they are found in the agro-economy sphere or in the larger biodiversity and environmental conservation movement. In her work with ARC2020, she acts as the Paris correspondent, covering newsworthy agri-food and rural topics at the EU level, communicating with partners, and assisting with the on-the-ground work of Nos Campagnes en Résilience in supporting farmers and other rural actors. A propos d’Ashley Parsons Lors de son voyage de 7 000 km de la France au Kirghizistan à vélo et à cheval, Ashley a fait de nombreuses rencontres avec les paysans et des membres associatifs de terrain. Elle a même séjourné plusieurs semaines chez certains d’entre eux découvrant, ainsi, la force et la résilience des campagnes. Écrivaine et journaliste, Ashley s’est consacrée, principalement, à l'exploration de systèmes progressistes - tant aux possibilités qu’à l’existant - qui favorisent l’intégration sociale, et se trouvant dans le monde agro-économique ou de manière plus large, dans le mouvement de conservation de la biodiversité et de préservation de l’environnement. Au sein de l’association ARC2020, elle est correspondante pour la France, couvrant les actualités agroalimentaires et rurales au niveau de l'UE. Elle fait partie de l’équipe « Nos campagnes en résilience », pour soutenir la communication avec les partenaires ainsi que le travail sur le terrain.