March 4. 2024. 5:33

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Integrated pest management struggles to take off in Romania

Despite efforts to encourage the uptake of integrated pest management (IPM) techniques and reduce the risks associated with the use of pesticides, it has struggled to take off in Romania. EURACTIV Romania reports.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on managing pests through a combination of techniques applied in order of hierarchy to minimise the use of chemical plant protection products.

This means that chemical pesticides should only be used as a last resort if all other efforts fail.

“IPM has been practised in Romania in various degrees for many years. Maybe not all measures, but sequentially for sure,” said Carmen Botez, executive director of the crop protection industry association of Romania (AIPROM), which represents approximately 80% of the market of plant protection products in the country.

However, according to Botez, there are “difficulties in implementing IPM in its entirety” due to specificities related to “soil, climate and culture”.

While pesticide use in Romania has decreased over the past decade, these difficulties have meant IPM practices have struggled to take off in Romania.

“That’s why we welcome the possibility for each country to create its own set of specific tools, in order to overcome most of the existing difficulties,” she explained.

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Struggling with pesticide targets

As part of the EU’s plans to slash the use and risk of pesticides in half by 2030, as set out in its flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork, Romania has a national reduction target of 35% based on the average quantity of pesticides used in 2015-2017.

Despite being among the lowest targets for EU countries, the union of the national branch of vegetable sector cooperatives (U.N.C.S.V.), which represents and defends the interests of agricultural cooperatives in the vegetal sector, believes that this target “puts the Romanian farmers against the wall”.

The association stressed that Romania cannot reach the target without having available effective pest control alternatives, at affordable prices.

The country has relied heavily on exemptions to allow the use of banned EU pesticides in recent years, granting derogations for bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides in 2021, 2022, and 2023.

However, this will soon no longer be possible after a recent EU court ruling put an end to the practice.

For his part, the Romanian minister of agriculture, Petre Daea, also disagrees with this target, “in the absence of solid data regarding the resilience of the sector”.

“Environmental and health concerns are legitimate, but let’s not lose sight of food security, a main objective of the CAP, so that the objective of reducing pesticides does not lead to a decrease in European production,” Daea said in September 2022.

EU Court puts end to emergency use of bee-toxic pesticides

The EU’s highest court ruled on Thursday (19 January) that EU countries should no longer be allowed temporary exemptions for banned, bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides, putting half of all such derogations to an end.

Bridging the knowledge gap

According to Romania’s recently adopted Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) national strategic plan, which sets out how the country will achieve the ambitions set out at the EU level, one of the key issues is a lack of knowledge and skills for farmers in Romania, especially for small and mid-sized farmers.

“Farmers have little knowledge about the rational use of pesticides, fertilisers, and antibiotics, and the effects of the use of pesticide on human health and the environment,” the plan warns.

The objective, it says, “is to encourage the development and introduction of integrated pest management, as well as alternative techniques or approaches, to reduce reliance on pesticide use”.

A ministerial order under public consultation imposes the training of all farmers, regardless of the level of completed studies, to be able to correctly apply phytosanitary treatments.

The course of the use of plant protection products will now be mandatory for farmers who want to receive subsidies.