EU auditors recommend IPM be enforced by CAP ‘conditionality’

A new report from the EU Court of Auditors is calling for the use of integrated pest management (IPM) to be better enforced by linking it to payments under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The report, released yesterday, Wednesday, February 5, recommends that implementing the principles of IPM should be dependent on ‘conditionality’ in the CAP post-2020 – whereby penalties in the form of payment reductions would be levied on users who do not use IPM principles.

This would, the Court of Auditors believes, ensure that IPM principles are enforced – as current member state compliance checks have “limited scope”.

The purpose of IPM is to reduce reliance on plant protection products (PPPs), i.e, chemical methods. The report stated that there has been only “limited progress” in measuring and reducing the use of PPPs.

The EU adopted a directive in 2009 on the sustainable use of pesticides. Subsequently, however, according to the Court of Auditors, member states were late in transposing the directive into national law.

Since 2016, the European Commission has taken increased action to enforce the directive, including the mandatory use of IPM.

Despite the mandatory nature of IPM – which means only using pesticides if prevention and other methods of pest control are not effective – there is no “clear criteria or specific requirements to help ensure enforcement” of IPM implementation, the auditors observed.

The report argued that there are “few incentives” for farmers to reduce their dependency on pesticides.

The European Commission has been unable so far to substantially reduce and control risks associated to pesticide use by farmers.

“An opportunity to properly address this issue was offered by a new CAP coming into force in 2021, but was unfortunately missed,” said Samo Jereb, the Court of Auditors member responsible for the report.

The report also points to a lack of data or national indicators to track the implementation of IPM principles across member states – though it was noted that some member states, including Ireland, have performed better in this regard.

The first two EU-wide indicators were only introduced last November – 10 years after the directive on PPPs was originally adopted by the commission.

The commission therefore still lacks a robust evidence base to assess whether the directive has achieved the EU’s objective of making pesticide use sustainable.

A summary of the auditors’ recommendations include: proper verification of pest management at farm level; linking IPM to CAP payments post-2020; improving statistics on plant PPPs; and developing better risk indicators.