A European Citizens’ Initiative has been launched to phase out synthetic pesticides by 2035, support farmers, and save bees and nature. If it gathers one million signatures by September 2020, the EU Commission and Parliament must consider turning the campaign’s demands into law.
The aim of the ECI is to bring the European Commission to propose legislation that would protect the health of bees and people in Europe. It comprises an alliance of 90 civil society organisations from 17 EU countries which are calling upon the Commission to phase out synthetic pesticides in the EU by 80% by 2030 and by 100% by 2035.
The initiative also demands that the Commission adequately addresses the acute biodiversity loss and prioritises small-scale, diverse and sustainable farming in Europe.
European Green Party co-chair Thomas Waitz told this website, “The EU is supporting a toxic farming system based on pesticides, artificial fertilisers and agrochemicals.”
“As a consequence, natural soil fertility and drinking water resources are decreasing, farmland and food production is falling into the hands of agroindustry speculators. Many smaller farms are closing up shop, climate change is escalating, and our ecosystem is collapsing.”
“As an organic farmer and beekeeper, it is particularly tragic to witness the massive decline of biodiversity: bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators are disappearing. Our streams and rivers are becoming more and more polluted, and we are exposed to a cocktail of synthetic pesticides through our food. Without bees, more than 80% of the variety of foods we eat could disappear from our tables, putting at risk the future of our food, our livelihoods, our health and the environment in which we live.”
“The European Greens wholeheartedly support the ECI ‘Save Bees and Farmes’. It is time for Europe’s citizens to have a say on what kind of agricultural model we foster and support, as this is directly linked to the food we eat, to the environment we live in and to biodiversity all over Europe. We invite citizens to support the initiative via Tilt, our engagement tool.
International scientists have called for urgent change to stop the collapse of nature. A quarter of Europe’s wild animals are severely threatened, half of our nature sites are in an unfavourable condition, and ecosystem services are deteriorating.
Meanwhile, millions of farmers are being squeezed out by unfair prices, the lack of political support and big corporations. Four million small farms vanished between 2005 and 2016 in the EU.
The ECI calls on the European Commission to introduce legal proposals to:
- Phase out synthetic pesticides by 2035: Phase out synthetic pesticides in EU agriculture by 80% by 2030, starting with the most hazardous, to become 100% free of synthetic pesticides by 2035
- Restore biodiversity: Restore natural ecosystems in agricultural areas so that farming becomes a vector of biodiversity recovery
- Support farmers in the transition: Reform agriculture by prioritising small scale, diverse and sustainable farming, supporting a rapid increase in agroecological and organic practice, and enabling independent farmer-based training and research into pesticide- and GMO-free farming
Adrian Bebb, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said “This campaign stands shoulder-to-shoulder with farmers and farmworkers. We are demanding a just transition for farmers to support them through the switch to the pesticide-free, sustainable farming we need for our future.”
Martin Dermine, environment policy officer at Pesticide Action Network Europe, said: “Politicians have been investing in measures (such as financing the creation of insect “hotels” or the distribution of flower seeds) that risk being far more beneficial for their public image than for the pollinators they seemingly want to protect. As long as the root causes of bee populations’ staggering die-off levels are not quickly and effectively tackled, it’s hard to see how conditions for pollinators and biodiversity as a whole could improve. We urgently need a rapid transition towards pesticide-free, agroecological practices: CAP money should be spent to allow for such a transition”.
Veronika Feicht from the Munich Environmental Institute said “We are bringing the fight against synthetic pesticides to the European level by giving a united voice to the people all over Europe who are demanding a new agricultural system. Citizens want a system that no longer damages biodiversity and ecosystems or puts health stress on consumers, but instead ensures the livelihood of bees and farmers alike and is healthier for people. With our initiative, we are committed to making this kind of agriculture a reality throughout Europe.”
The campaign is run by a cross-sector alliance of civil society organisations covering the environment, health, farming and beekeeping. The organisers include the European networks Friends of the Earth Europe and the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) as well as the Munich Environmental Institute, the Aurelia foundation (Germany), Générations Futures (France) and GLOBAL 2000/Friends of the Earth Austria