EU gives green light to ‘sustainable’ fertiliser proposal

Proposals to ensure a sustainable supply of ‘efficient and environmentally-friendly’ fertiliser products for EU farmers were approved by the EU Agriculture Committee last week.

A proposal for new rules (for putting fertiliser products on the EU market) for the Internal Market Committee was approved by the Agriculture Committee, with 30 votes in favour, six against and three MEPs abstaining.

The objective of the new rules is to increase the availability of fertilisers, in particular ones made from recycled and organic materials, on the EU market as a whole. This would bring down the current levels of dependence of the EU on imports of raw materials for mineral fertilisers from abroad.

MEPs are also of the opinion that such a move would contribute to the European circular economy.

“The EU agricultural sector plays a key role in circular economy. Today’s vote unlocks new innovations to use organic fertilisers in a more efficient and circular way,” said rapporteur Jan Huitema (ALDE, NL).

This is good news for both farmers and the environment.

The MEPs on the committee put forward suggestions of the proposals to the Internal Market Committee on a number of aspects.

Suggestions included:
  • To broaden the range of ingredients that could be put into CE-marketed fertilisers, such as including food and feed waste – as well as refuse from plants used for agro-fuels not containing pollutants;
  • To amend the rules to secure an even footing for ‘innovative’ fertiliser products – and thus provide motives to use such goods made from recycled or organic materials;
  • To make plant biostimulants – which have a wide range of plant benefits – eligible for marketing across the EU in order to reduce amounts of fertilisers and to make crops more resistant in the face of climate change.

Another suggestion of the rapporteur’s, however, was rejected by the committee MEPs. This suggestion was to promote the use of fertilisers produced from processed livestock manure – by omitting them from limits for the application of livestock manure set down under the Nitrates Directive, unless they pose a threat to its environmental objectives.

This suggestion was rejected with 20 votes for, 20 against and two abstentions.

The next stage of the process will be for the MEPs on the Internal Market Committee to vote on the draft legislative document, taking the opinion of the Agriculture Committee into account. This vote is expected to take place during the meeting of the committee, which will happen on Tuesday, July 11, and Wednesday, July 12.

Currently, EU rules apply to only about 50% of fertiliser presently available on the internal market, mostly of mineral composition, which take a lot of energy and carbon dioxide intensive processes to make.

Many organic fertilisers can be put on the market only if mutually recognised by member states with diverging national rules.

Almost 30% of mineral fertilisers could be replaced by organic alternatives, according to estimates given to the committee. Using bio-waste to produce such alternatives would also contribute to the circular economy.