28 July 2022, New Delhi: Agriculture ministers of European Union have issued a warning that drastically cutting pesticide use in the European Union may have an impact on crop output during this period of great uncertainty.
At the recent Agriculture and Fisheries Council (Agrifish) meeting in Brussels, member states voiced their opposition to the ambitious proposal made by the European Commission to decrease pesticide use in half by 2030.
Ministers stressed throughout the meeting that before establishing mandatory reduction objectives, there must be effective, long-term alternatives to chemical pesticides.
They also stated that before imposing limits, the new legislation should take into account the disparities in geography, climate, and starting positions in different member states.
They further emphasised that, particularly in the current situation of the Russia-Ukraine war, “sustainability should not be sought at the expense of food security or of the competitiveness of E.U. Agriculture.”
Growing disagreements among the 27 Agricultural Ministers
The European Commission’s current work on new regulations will probably be significantly impacted by the growing disagreements among the 27 agricultural ministers. Reducing the use of chemicals in agriculture is the aim of the regulation.
Governments are urged by the proposed legislation to establish national reduction targets, implement integrated pest management strategies for pest control, and only use pesticides as a last resort.
Additionally, the regulations forbid the use of pesticides in playgrounds, schools, parks, and other environmentally sensitive locations.
Farmers to be paid for using alternatives
Finally, the new regulations allow governments to pay for farmers’ expenses as they switch to alternative pest control methods using money from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Spain, Portugal, Malta, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, and Hungary were among the countries that opposed the new legislation the most.
The Agriculture Minister of Spain issued a warning that by forbidding the use of pesticides in environmentally vulnerable areas, pests would be allowed to establish breeding grounds there. The minister for Slovenia stated that the bans would significantly hurt farmers in these regions.
Changing course on pesticide use is necessary for long-term food security
The idea was defended by Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, who asserted that changing course on pesticide use is necessary for long-term food security and resilience.
We don’t forbid the use of pesticides, she insisted. To aid farmers in their transition, a growing number of biological and low-risk alternatives are being approved and made subject to more streamlined regulations.
The transition will also be supported by further research, innovation, and use of new technology, she continued. We must adjust to new realities as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war. But we cannot allow that to undermine our commitment to sustainability.
Olive Growers and use of dimethoate
Olive growers, many of whom opposed the October 2021 restriction on the use of dimethoate, will be impacted by further reducing pesticide use.
The agrochemical is sometimes regarded as the only effective barrier in olive orchards against the olive fruit fly. The ban’s implementation in the lack of effective substitute insect-control methods had been criticised by certain farmers.
Because pesticides like dimethoate are readily available on the market, synthetic active ingredients have fostered a plant protection strategy that is more centred on treating pathology than on prevention over time, according to Gennaro Sicolo, head of producer organisation Italia Olivicola.
He continued, “Controlling a diseases without synthetic substances may be difficult, but it is vital.” The preservation of the environment and its natural resources must be a consideration throughout the entire production process.
According to Sicolo, olive farmers should employ more preventative measures to stop the spread of pests.
According to him, this might start a positive feedback loop where the plant’s health and harmony with the soil and its surroundings as a whole are at its core. We must overhaul our pest control tactics.
The European Food Safety Agency’s (EFSA’s) 2021 annual report revealed that Europe uses relatively few pesticides in its olive crop.
96 percent of the 100,000 samples examined by EFSA showed that the amount of contaminants present was far lower than the allowable level. In addition, 57 percent of all samples lacked detectable residual levels.