The European Commission announced it ” before summer “, she kept her promise. The “nature package” has been on the table since Wednesday June 22, and it is already making a lot of waves. It is not so much the proposed law “on the restoration of nature”, setting legally binding objectives in terms of biodiversity, which is causing a stir, but the proposal to revise the directive on the use of pesticides.
This second proposal relies on legally binding targets at European Union (EU) and national level to reduce the use of chemical pesticides by 50% by 2030 (compared to the average of the levels calculated in 2015, 2016 and 2017). The European Commission has not pulled these figures out of its hat: in the “Farm to fork” strategy, which dates back to May 2020, the institution had already written down these objectives in black and white . This time, they are incorporated into formal legislative proposals.
A “rigid” system
But for some farmers, the potion does not pass. The organization “Agriculture & progress” thus considers that ” less (of pesticides, Editor’s note)it’s not always better ». She points out that the new system “seems, for farmers, very rigid, with mandatory components that would prevent any flexibility in the choice of agricultural instruments used”.
Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner responsible for health, explains that this proposal on pesticides aims above all to “to protect our soil, our air and our food and the health of citizens”. She promises that “no one will be left behind”and especially not the farmers since “the common agricultural policy (CAP) will help them financially to cover all the costs of these new rules for a period of five years”.
Prohibition in public gardens
The environmental associations are delighted with the proposals of the European executive, even if Clara Bourgin, in charge of the “agriculture and nature” campaign at the Brussels office of the NGO Les Amis de la Terre, thinks that the European Commission could have be even more ambitious and advocate for a more drastic reduction in the use of pesticides. As it stands, the text also prohibits pesticides within a radius of three meters around playgrounds and other public gardens.
The effect of the war in Ukraine
These texts must now pass through the hands of MEPs and Member States, who must negotiate them. Many European capitals are worried because for some, reducing the use of pesticides could jeopardize food security in Europe. As the war in Ukraine rages on, they don’t want to take any risks. Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia are among the most cautious countries. They estimate that they have already greatly reduced their use of pesticides in recent years. If they can prove it, the 50% reduction target could be modulated, explains the Commission. The threshold to be reached could therefore differ from one State to another. As for France, it fears that a drop in the use of pesticides will rhyme with a collapse in European yields.
“We have to counter this argument that has always been used by the agro-industry according to which we need pesticides to feed the planet”sighs Clara Bourgin, who maintains it: “There is an urgent need to switch to more diverse food systems. » In an interview given to EU Observer on 21 June, Frans Timmermans, responsible for the “green deal” at the European Commission, agrees: according to him, it is “without reduction of pesticides we will suffer a food crisis in Europe”. Which side will win?