May 27. 2024. 8:44

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LEAK: European Parliament to push for 80% pesticides reduction target

The Member of the European Parliament leading the revision of the EU’s pesticide framework is pushing for more ambition both in targets and timelines for EU-wide pesticide cuts, according to a draft report seen by EURACTIV.

The European Commission put forth its proposal for the overhaul of the EU’s legislation on the sustainable use of pesticides regulation (SUR) in the summer of 2022, as part of efforts to slash both the use and risk of hazardous pesticides in half by 2030, as well as a complete ban in ‘sensitive’ areas.

However, the European Parliament report, which is dated 6 February and authored by Green lawmaker Sarah Wiener, the leading MEP on the file, pushes to increase the Commission’s 50% reduction target to 80% by 2030 for “the use of more hazardous plant protection products”.

This can, for instance, include products that are carcinogenic, that is, cancer-causing, neurotoxic, or toxic for reproduction.

This would move the legislation closer to the demands of a recent citizens’ initiative, ‘Save bees and farmers’, which had called to aim for a general reduction of synthetic pesticides by 80%.

Meanwhile, the draft report goes so far as to propose a completely new name for the piece of legislation at hand. Rather than a regulation “on the sustainable use of plant protection products”, Wiener’s draft refers to a regulation “on the use of pesticides”.

While this may be seen as a cosmetic change, such a move carries weight as it is an attempt to shield the regulation from greenwashing claims.

Higher targets, stricter baselines

Additionally, the draft report sets stricter baselines against measuring the relative reduction by 2030 in each member state. Instead of reducing plant protection products compared to the use in 2015-2017, the document sets out 2018-2020 as the reference period.

What might sound like a technicality is a highly contentious issue for member states, who have stressed that those countries who have already done a lot to reduce pesticides in the past must not be penalised for this.

In effect, setting the reference period to a later date means a country that already cut its pesticide use between 2015 and 2018, say, will have to slash an already lower use in half by 2030.

Citizen-backed petition to ban pesticides by 2035 divides EU lawmakers

A petition led by citizens and NGOs calling for a ban on synthetic pesticides left a bittersweet taste after being delivered to the European Parliament in a ‘lively panel’ joined by the Commission, agriculture and environment lawmakers.

A ‘sensitive’ issue

Equally contentious among member states is the proposed complete ban of chemical pesticides in ‘sensitive’ areas.

Here, Wiener’s draft report takes a more conciliatory stance, proposing, among other things, that fewer types of areas should count as sensitive and thus be affected by the ban.

Specifically, areas that are protected for reasons unrelated to pesticide use, such as the preservation of historical monuments or the beauty of landscapes, should be excluded.

The text also calls to “adapt the conditions” under which exemptions from the complete ban could be granted.

Commission ready to come to terms with EU countries on pesticide cuts

The European Commission’s proposal for halving the use of pesticides is still up for discussion, Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides stressed after a majority of member states called for a fresh impact study on the ramifications of such a step.

Funding from a new EU tax?

Wiener’s draft also aligns more closely with criticism also made by national ministers: the lack of funding.

While, according to the Commission, costs for implementing the new rules and supporting farmers in the transition should be covered with already existing means from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), countries have warned that this will not be enough and that it will be difficult to repurpose funds after the new CAP already came into force at the beginning of this year.

As such, the document suggests that, in addition to CAP funds, a ‘risk-based’ tax on plant protection products could be introduced either by each country individually or on an EU level to “foster the implementation and uptake of integrated pest management and to make related measures more attractive for farmers”.

Member states slam Commission’s plans to slash pesticide use

EU member states have called for a new impact assessment on the European Commission’s proposal to slash the use and risk of pesticides, citing concerns over food security and resilience, but the EU executive has stood firm in its convictions.

The report is likely to undergo a series of changes in the process of finding compromises between the different political groups and parliamentary committees, but gives an idea of the Parliament’s current thinking and what its position could look like in the inter-institutional talks with the Commission and member states.

To seal a final compromise deal, the European Parliament will have to enter into negotiations with EU ministers, the latter of which recently pushed for a further impact assessment amid concerns over the lack of data to substantiate the Commission’s proposal in a move lambasted by green groups as a delay tactic.