The goals to protect biodiversity set in the European Green Deal are facing strong political headwinds. This has recently become apparent in negotiations on the Common European Agricultural Policy (CAP) as Member States decided not to link agricultural subsidies to the reduction of pesticide use. Now, in the frame of the revision of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (SUD), resistance is growing against enshrining the 50% reduction target in an EU legislation. However, if this target falls, the Farm-to-Fork (F2F) and the Biodiversity strategies will lose their most concrete and effective means to trigger a transition of European agriculture towards agroecology. It is therefore important that civil society sends a strong signal to European policy makers to phase-out pesticides and support the Save Bees and Farmers European Citizens Initiative (ECI).
Shortly after, the European Commission presented its plan to reduce the use and risk of pesticides by 50% by 2030, this reduction target came under attack from pesticide and agribusiness lobbyists: they criticised the 50% reduction target as ‘unscientific’, overly ambitious and unrealistic for EU farmers to achieve. They also claimed it would weaken the competitiveness of European agricultural products. The pesticide industry demanded an Impact Assessment before allowing for any inclusion of the 50 % pesticide reduction target in a legislation to take place, in order to take into account possible negative effects on European agriculture.
Impact assessments are costly and time-consuming and therefore very well-suited to delay and water-down EU health and environmental regulations.
Nevertheless, the idea of having an impact assessment was supported by a majority of Member States, as revealed in documents obtained by the NGO Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe. These documents were part of a draft conclusion from the European Council, in response to a Commission report criticising Member States for the poor implementation of the SUD.
In particular, the European Commission argues that Member States’ efforts to reduce pesticide use are far from sufficient. Remarkably, the European Commission announced in this report its intention to revise the SUD to reduce the use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50% by 2030, thus implementing the pesticide reduction target of the European Green Deal.
However, the documents reveal a clear gap between the ambitions of the Commission and the unacceptable lack of good will from Member States. The documents show how much Member States are opposed to reducing pesticides use and consider the current situation acceptable. Many Member States still argue that the farming sector is already delivering biodiversity benefits and that moving towards another system will become too expensive. It thus appears that many Member States consider the extent of the decline in biodiversity as acceptable despite the clear and mounting scientific evidence of collapse.
This is an extremely serious situation. Not only for Europe's citizens and the environment, but also for farmers, whose production is threatened by both climate change and the current biodiversity crisis.
The way forward is for farmers to embrace the ecological transition that the European Green Deal proposes, and through this approach of working with nature, rather than against it, to directly contribute to biodiversity and environmental restoration. It is high time for governments in EU Member States to start listening to the urgent warnings of science and no longer resist the necessary changes in our food system.
Our ECI will keep fighting for a pesticide-free and bee-friendly Europe. Please help us send a clear signal to the European Commission and Member States that citizens want a pesticide-free Europe! Sign the ECI, follow us on social media and share our news, send e-mails to your relatives, friends and colleagues asking them to sign in order to push the European Commission to stop the fatal decline of bees and other pollinators!