The largest political grouping in the European Parliament has slammed a proposed new regulation from the European Commission that would slash pesticide usage in the EU.

The European People’s Party (EPP) – of which Fine Gael is a member – is even more highly critical of a proposal from a green MEP which would see pesticide usage reduced even more than what the commission is proposing.

Not only is the EPP the largest political group in the parliament, but the current president of the commission, Ursula von der Leyen, as well as most of the current members of the commission, are also part of the group through their respective national political parties.

Last week, Alexander Bernhuber, an Austrian member of the group and its spokesperson for agriculture in the parliament’s environment committee, said that the EPP “wants to go a constructive way with a realistic and holistic view, especially in light of the war in Ukraine”.

Bernhuber insisted that the EU must focus on European food security.

The proposed Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation from the commission would cut pesticide use across the EU by 50% by 2030.

An even more stringent proposal, from MEP Sarah Weiner, representing the Group of Greens in the parliament, would cut pesticide usage by 80% in the same timeframe.

According to Bernhuber, the issue of food security is not seen “in the approach in the commission proposal and we absolutely do not see it in the proposal from the greens, from Sarah Weiner”.

“The proposal from the commission is absolutely not fit for purpose in many ways. It must be seen by the commission that there are a lot of things that are not acceptable. Especially in the point of reduction targets, we cannot agree,” the Austrian representative said.

He slammed the commission’s proposal as including “irrational targets”.

Bernhuber said: “Even the commission cannot answer questions from member states and from us as members of the parliament when we ask questions in detail on how it looks for food security, especially crops, for example sugar beets or potatoes, because they don’t have a general overview on this topic.

“On the report from Sarah Weiner, to be honest, for me and our group, it was quite irritating to see her report… Sarah Weiner wants a reduction target of 80% instead of the already high and much criticised proposal from the commission.”

According to Bernhuber, Weiner’s proposal would also change reference timeframes for calculating pesticide reduction, which would make her rules even more strict.

“A lot of member states have already commented that this is not even workable at all. This is not workable for governance, it is also not workable for family farms in Europe,” he said.

The MEP added: “This means, for me, it’s a real weakening of European food security, especially in light of the war in Ukraine. We cannot allow this to happen.

“European food security must be a priority topic in the European Parliament, and it also must be seen in this [proposal] that food security is one of the key elements. It is a fact that the proposal will deteriorate food security in the EU.

Bernhuber cited a study from the University of Wageningen which showed that, if the commission’s proposals are implemented, it would result in a reduction in the EU’s crop harvest of at least 20%.

The EPP is calling for a postponement of this proposal, as well as any proposals that would compromise EU food security.

Bernhuber commented: “The EPP wants a postponement of all legal projects that makes food more expensive, less available and adds further burdens to European farmers who feed people in Europe and beyond.

“Overall, we as the EPP want the commission to come forward with new, clear ideas. We want food security to become a top priority in the EU.

“The commission must safeguard European food security in its legislation. The European Green Deal must not lead to broader imports from overseas. This is fuel for climate change,” the Austrian MEP added.