March 5. 2024. 8:13

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EU targets blamed for stalling pest management progress in Greece

The rollout of integrated pest management (IPM) has been beset with setbacks in Greece over the last decade despite some positive results, with farmers taking umbrage with ‘restrictive’ EU targets which they see as stalling progress.

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.

The system is a core part of Greece’s 2020 National Action Plan for Pesticides, which stresses that it plays a vital role in the country’s environmental and climate action.

As such, a number of actions have been implemented with the initiative of the ministry of rural development and food in order to encourage the uptake of IPM, including crop-specific guidelines drawn up annually to provide professional users of pesticides with tailored advice.

According to a representative of the agricultural association of Paggaio, which works in the region of Kavala in northern Greece, the measures have contributed significantly to the success of integrated pest management in Greece.

“Integrated pest management solved many problems in the crops and had very satisfactory results”, the representative told EURACTIV Greece, explaining that farmers speak of very satisfactory results as long as it was applied according to the needs of Greek soils.

Fighting fire with fire: pest control by playing nature at its own game

Biological pesticides are rapidly gaining attention as a sustainable and viable environmentally friendly alternative to chemical pesticides. However, they are currently hampered by maladapted regulation.

However, despite some positive signals, significant difficulties in the implementation of integrated pest management have emerged over the past few years.

According to the regional farming representative, this is in large part due to “targets and the new EU legislation” which present an obstacle to the implementation of IPM.

The minister of rural development and food, Georgios Georgantas, made it clear in a recent parliamentary debate that the country’s climate goals are inextricably intertwined with the European Green Deal targets, stressing that the national target is to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilisers by 50% by 2030.

However, due to the national incorporation of European targets, the list of pesticides allowed for use is constantly being updated.

This means that a range of conventional pesticides that were essential for the implementation of IPM are either in the process of being replaced by biological pesticides or being entirely phased out.

A lot of hope hangs on the potential of biological pesticides, a type of pesticide made from natural materials such as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals, which are playing an increasing role in agriculture.

According to a recent blog from CropLife Europe, the umbrella association representing the EU’s crop protection industry, the global biopesticides market was worth €3.5 billion in 2020 and is forecast to rise to €17.1 billion by 2031.

However, the use of biological pesticides continues to be plagued with technical and regulatory problems, such as lower efficacy.

For the Greek farming representative, this means it is currently impossible to manage pests effectively with the biological tools currently on offer, often resulting in a loss of yields.

The representative added that the high cost of purchasing specific products is also an obstacle to implementing integrated plant protection.

The prices of proper pesticides have increased by at least 50% in the last three years, with an additional increase of 20% this year, which drastically increases costs and discourages farmers from the correct and full implementation of this method, the representative said.

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.