Regions and cities demand more ambition on reducing the use of pesticides to help farmers to cope better with the economic, energy and climate crisis by promoting sustainable food systems and protecting health and nature
Reneging on commitments made with the adoption of EU’s Farm to Fork strategy and on raising standards for sustainable food production will have seriously detrimental impacts on the environment and risk deepening the economic effect of the climate and food price crises. But farmers need more support, including with a new national fund for pest management that could be financed by a risk-based taxation on pesticides, by contributions of retailers, or by penalty payments. This was the key message of local and regional leaders in the opinion adopted on 15 March in the European Committee of the Regions plenary session, calling on EU Member States to help farmers reduce the use of pesticides and related risks by introducing dedicated measures in their strategic plans funded by EU’s Common Agriculture Policy.
In the opinion, on the “Sustainable use of pesticides”, local and regional representatives call for more ambitious goals than the European Commission’s draft regulation on the sustainable use of plant protection products when it comes to the protection of health, the promotion of sustainable food systems and biodiversity. Reducing the use of expensive pesticides would help farms to cope with the economic, energy and environmental crises, the opinion states. In the same vein, lowering standards for sustainable food production would not only imply higher environmental costs, but also increase price volatility in the context of the current crisis, warn local and regional leaders. The CoR is therefore urging national governments to help farmers to use fewer pesticides by including targeted measures in their national strategic plans backed by EU funds under the Common Agriculture Policy. New national funds for pest management could also be established using the revenues of a risk-based taxation on plant protection products, from contributions of retailers or from penalty payments, the CoR opinion suggests.
CoR rapporteur Heinz-Joachim Höfer (PES/Germany), Member of the Municipal Council of Altenkirchen, said: “Reducing the use and the risk of pesticides is the only way to consolidate a sustainable food system in Europe in line with the objectives of the Farm to Fork Strategy and to ensure food sovereignty in Europe without destroying biodiversity. But it is also a matter of public health: by forbidding pesticides close to the areas where vulnerable people such as pregnant women or children are, we hope to improve health and to reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases. Let’s not forget that traces of pesticides were identified in the hair of 60% of Europeans according to a European Parliament study in 2018.”
According to Mr Höfer’s opinion, the EC proposal should also:
· Focus on the most dangerous pesticides rather than on the quantities applied
· Revise the evaluation procedure and the indicators for pesticides by the EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) in order to take into account cocktail effects and resistance
· Prohibit imports of products treated with unauthorised pesticides and exports of unauthorised pesticides
· Prohibit the sale and use of the most dangerous pesticides by non-professionals
· Extend the buffer zones to 50 metres (instead of 3m in the European Commission proposal) in areas frequented primarily by vulnerable populations and where more dangerous plant protection products are used
· Extend sensitive areas to residential areas and all water (catchment, underground, surface …)
· Plan the monitoring of pesticide-related occupational diseases
· Extend the responsibility of pesticide producers to the entire life cycle of the product and especially for the take back and recycling
The EC draft regulation on the sustainable use of plant protection products aims to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides by reducing the risks and impacts on human health and the environment and promoting integrated pest management, as well as alternative approaches or techniques, such as non-chemical alternatives to pesticides.
Supporting cities and regions in their efforts to reduce water, soil and air pollution is the key objective of the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform, a joint initiative of the European Committee of the Regions and the European Commission launched in December 2021. The first Zero Pollution Monitoring and Outlook Report was published in December 2022.
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