One farm organisation has described the decision to request the European Commission to consider food security in its pesticides proposal as a positive development for tillage farmers.
The Sustainable Use of Pesticide Reduction (SUR) proposal aims to reduce the use and risks of chemical and hazardous pesticides by 50% at EU level by 2030.
Ministers agreed on a EU Council decision requesting the commission to provide a complementary study to its existing impact assessment to ensure food security as a central objective of agriculture.
The grain chair of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Kieran McEvoy said there must be flexibility for member states like Ireland to decide reduction targets nationally, which consider challenging climatic conditions.
Welcoming the decision by ministers, McEvoy said: “The Irish tillage sector is unique at EU level, with high annual rainfall making for high plant disease pressure and one of the lowest areas of arable cropping in the EU 27.
“A mandatory EU requirement to cut pesticide use by 50% will destroy the sector overnight, which directly flies in the face of the Irish government’s objective to grow the tillage sector.”
The grain chair urged the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue to undertake a full assessment of the proposal on Irish cropping systems.
During a meeting with an IFA delegation last week, the impact of the SUR proposal was made clear to Minister McConalogue, he said.
The commission proposed to make Integrated Pest Management (IPM) the norm, so that chemical pesticides are used only as last resort or when other approaches to pest control are not successful.
A progress report presented earlier this month has noted that the commission’s impact assessment does not consider the impact of the proposed ban of plant protection products in sensitive areas.
There is a potential for a 100% ban in areas deemed sensitive which include nitrate vulnerable zones and areas used by the general public, the IFA’s grain chair said.
Alternative options on sensitive areas have been put forward by the commission for the EU Council to consider in its examination of the proposal, a spokesperson for the commission confirmed.
On sensitive areas, possible solutions have been put forward which would mean moving away from a ban, the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides said.
In agricultural areas, she said, all approved pesticides used in organics and all approved pesticides used in conventional agriculture, except the most hazardous ones, could be allowed.
Commissioner Kyriakides recently said she is ready to work with member states to address the concerns about the impact of the proposal on food security.
However, she emphasised that concerns should not cloud shared objectives, saying that we need to act now to halt the loss of biodiversity and of pollinators in particular.
“Any further decline poses a real threat to European agriculture and food yields. This is the real threat to our food security – not our proposal to reduce pesticides.”
An EU organisation for organic farming, IFOAM Organics has warned that the additional impact assessment risks that the proposal will not be negotiated, voted nor implemented before the 2024 EU elections.
This could derail the complete EU Green Deal and specifically the EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategy, both of which cite 50% pesticide reduction as a core objective, the organisation said.