Centre right MEPs say they want to postpone the law proposal on pesticide reduction in its current form because it will jeopardise European food production during the war in Ukraine.
“When there is a war in Europe, we cannot do business as usual. The current law proposal is not fit for purpose”, said Alexander Bernhuber, the EPP Group’s chief negotiator on pesticides.
The comments in the wake of a debate on the issue in the European parliament this week.
A report on the pesticides regulation was presented to the Environment Committee (ENVI). The debate on the new Sustainable Use of Pesticides (SUR) Regulation, marks the start of negotiations on the file in Parliament.
The EPP Group sounded the starting gun by saying it “firmly opposes” proposals of the Green Group in the European Parliament, which, it says, are “led by pure ideology as opposed to science.”
“Showing off with totally unrealistically high pesticides reduction targets will not lead anywhere. The Greens have no plan on what to do next. They will not make food healthier or more available, but just more expensive and more difficult to produce”, stressed Bernhuber.
Further comments from another MEP Franc Bogovič, a member of Parliament’s Agriculture Committee.
He noted, “The Greens are trying to criminalise pesticides. We want to reduce them without jacking up prices. We all want fewer pesticides on the table, but sometimes the best choice is not the most obvious one. If they simply ban the use of pesticides, this will result in food shortages”, warned Bogovič.
Bogovič points to studies that show pesticide reduction in Europe could result in certain sectors producing up to 30 percent less food in Europe. In the worst case scenario, it is claimed that Europe would be producing on average 30 percent less apples and olives, 23 percent less tomatoes and 15 percent less wheat, which would have to be substituted by imports from third countries with much lower production standards compared to the EU.
“If these numbers are confirmed by the European Commission’s impact assessment, which the EPP Group has been demanding, this is insanity. The pesticides law proposal was designed before the war. That is why a re-evaluation, a reassessment and an impact study are the reasonable and urgent next steps”, Bernhuber said.
Elsewhere, the ECR Group said it believes that the law proposal on pesticide reduction presented by Green MEP Sarah Wiener is “unacceptable in its current form.”
The draft aims to further increase the Commission proposal to more than 50 per cent reduction in pesticides and more than 80 per cent for the more hazardous pesticides by 2030.
For ECR environment coordinator and shadow rapporteur Alexandr Vondra, this goes too far.
Vondra said, “With high prices and multiple crises in Europe and around the world, now is not the time to make agricultural production more difficult.
“In all well-intentioned and important projects, such as increasing biodiversity, we must always be sensible about what we are doing and what side effects it will have on consumers in the given situation”, Vondra said.
Vondra added: “We all want to have more space and potential for biodiversity. But, if we want to have areas with more biodiversity and less chemicals on them, then of course that will mean dramatically lower yields for farmers, lower food quality for consumers, and that will have to be compensated for elsewhere.”
“The proposal could even encourage more imports from abroad, which will also lead to further destruction of the Amazon rainforest, which we don’t want either. All of this will lead to further increases in food prices, because obviously with the war going on, there is no longer an ideal world where everyone wants to help each other.”
The ECR Group says it is calling for further studies and an impact assessment to ensure that lawmakers can make correct and informed decisions in the future.
“I believe this proposal needs to be changed dramatically. We need to have access to an impact assessment and real studies so that we can make the right decision. We do not want to do more harm than good”, Vondra concluded.