March 5. 2024. 2:32

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European Parliament: Tax pesticides to fund integrated pest management

A national ‘risk-based tax’ on pesticides to fund more sustainable alternatives has been proposed by the European Parliament lawmaker leading the EU’s plans to slash the use and risk of plant protection products by 2030.

The leaked draft document put forward by Austrian Green MEP and Parliament’s rapporteur on the file, Sarah Weiner, notes that the obligatory reduction of both the use and risk of pesticides will be associated with “considerable costs and administrative burden for member states”, including support for farmers, training and pay for advisers.

As things currently stand, the Commission has proposed that the necessary funding for this proposal would all come from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

However, the current EU farming subsidies scheme does not allow the disbursement of funds when it comes to obligatory requirements such as the ones set in the proposed new EU rules on pesticides dedicated to Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

For this reason, in July, the Commission proposed an unprecedented amendment to the CAP to make the funding to IPM part of the CAP expenditures for five years – although it will not add any fresh money from a practical perspective.

IPM is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on the long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques applied in order of hierarchy to minimise the use of chemical plant protection products to the greatest extent possible.

Although applying IPM principles is already a mandatory part of the sustainable use of pesticides regulation (SUR), actions on IPM have been slow and support sorely lacking, according to the EU court of auditors, who concluded in February 2020 that there had been limited progress in measuring and reducing the associated risks.

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.

Wiener’s proposal

The report by Wiener points out that the required actions to reduce pesticide use “may not sufficiently be covered by CAP spending”, and that, as such, “alternative solutions are needed”.

Stressing that a sufficient financial budget is “crucial for the implementation of the SUR”, the draft proposal, therefore, proposes that EU countries introduce risk-based taxation on plant protection products, by contributions of retailers, or by penalty payments, to ensure “adequate financial resources are available to competent authorities”.

This tax on pesticides would then feed into a state fund which could be used to “foster the implementation and uptake of integrated pest management and to make related measures more attractive for farmers”, e.g., providing for compensations in case of proven loss of income.

The report maintains that creating such a fund would “automatically lead to a reduction in pesticide use” while also providing funds for implementing the regulation and adequate compensation for farmers.

The report adds that the ‘polluter pays’ principle should also be embedded in taxation measures in line with calls from EU citizens.

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.

EU models

The draft document notes that several other member states have also already established pesticide taxes.

The concept of this new EU-wide tax is inspired by the Danish model of taxation, which was found by a recent Nature study to be a “successful example” of a pesticide tax which was found to reduce the overall pesticide load in the country by 18% from the years before the tax was introduced (2012 and 2013) to 2016 and 2017.

In order to avoid distortion of the internal market, the rapporteur proposes that rules on pesticide taxation should be harmonised to help raise funds for implementing this Regulation as well as offering the possibility of compensating farmers.

To do so, the rapporteur called on the Commission to present a “report analysing different options of introducing risk-based pesticide taxes or levies in all EU member states or at EU level and to follow up with a legislative proposal”.

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.

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.

Although the ball is in the two EU lawmakers’ field, the Commission’s role does not seem to be over.

In a recent event on the SUR proposal, the European Commission’s food safety service DG SANTE deputy-director Claire Bury said that the EU executive “will look at other aspects” of the proposal, for instance, ‘flanking measures’ to support information around IPM.