Members of the Environment Committee call for new chemical pesticide rules

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

MEPs vote in favour of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation. Credit: Getty/Justin Paget
MEPs vote in favour of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation. Credit: Getty/Justin Paget

Related tags Trade Sustainability Regulation Agriculture

The Environment Committee is calling on the EU to reduce the use of all chemical pesticides by at least 50% by 2023, as MEPs vote in favour of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation.

The vote was passed by 47 for and 37 against, with two abstentions; and will see binding targets rolled out to halve the use and risk of pesticides in the EU.

Members of European Parliament (MEPs) say the EU must reduce the use and risk of chemical plant protection products by at least 50% and the use of so-called “more hazardous products” ​by 65%, compared to the 2013-2017 average. The Commission proposed a 50% target for both based on the 2015-2017 average.

MEPs want each member state to adopt national targets and strategies, based on the substances sold per year, their hazard level and the size of their agricultural area. The Commission would then access whether national targets need to be altered to achieve EU 2030 targets.

Member states must also have in place crop-specific rules for at least those five crops where a reduction of the use of chemical pesticides would have the biggest impact.

Meanwhile, MEPs say the Commission will need to set an EU 2023 target for increasing sales of low-risk pesticides six months after the entry into force of the regulation to help equip farmers with alternatives.

How would a new EU pesticide rule impact the UK?

By December 2025, the Commission must examine the differences in the use of pesticides on imported agricultural and agri-food products relative to EU produce and, if needed, propose measures to ensure imports meet EU-equivalent standards. The export of pesticides not approved in EU would be banned.

Commenting after the vote, Rapporteur Sarah Wiener (Greens, AT) said: “This vote brings us one step closer to significantly reducing chemical pesticide use by 2030. It is very positive that we were able to agree on feasible compromises in an ideologically charged and industry-dominated discussion. Practical solutions have been found for example on sensitive areas where member states can make exceptions if needed. It was particularly important for me to ensure that independent advice on preventive measures based on integrated pest management would be offered free of charge to European farmers."

Clara Bourgin, food, farming and nature campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, welcomed the news: “Today's vote is a glimmer of hope when the European Green Deal's objectives are otherwise in peril. Despite some setbacks and weakenings, EU environment lawmakers have rightfully championed binding targets and rules for pesticide reduction, for nature, farmers and citizens' sake.

“It is a big step for the transition towards sustainable food and farming systems, but there is still an elephant in the room: we need an improved indicator to properly measure pesticide reduction and gauge our progress. We now count on fellow MEPs and on Member States to fill the loopholes and ensure a swift adoption of a strong Regulation.”

Expert policy and regulation specialist Andrea Gutierrez-Solana, who works as the associate director for Whitehouse Communications, offered her perspective to Food Manufacture on the news: "This is good news for the organic sector. The ENVI Committee report is more ambitious than the Commission original proposal but the methodology to measure is still contentious as it appears to indirectly discriminate against natural pesticides (which need to be used in higher amounts). The organic sector is asking MEPs to tackle this ahead of the vote in Plenary."

Parliament is scheduled to adopt its mandate during the 20-23 November 2023 plenary session, after which it is ready to start negotiations with EU member states.

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