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Farm to Fork: New rules to reduce risk and use of pesticides in EU

Christian Fernsby |
The Commission has proposed new rules to reduce the use and risk of pesticides in the EU, delivering on the Farm to Fork Strategy objective of a fair, healthy and environmentally respectful food system.

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They introduce:

Legally binding targets: binding EU-level targets to reduce by 50% the use and risk of chemical pesticides and the use of the more hazardous pesticides by 2030. Member States will have to set their own reduction targets within clearly defined parameters as well as their own strategies to ensure that the EU wide target is achieved collectively.

Strict new rules to enforce environmentally friendly pest control: a comprehensive new enforcement framework to ensure that all farmers practice Integrated Pest Management ‘IPM', in which all alternative methods of pest control are considered first, before chemical pesticides can be used as a last resort measure.

A ban on the use of all pesticides in sensitive areas: the use of all pesticides is prohibited in sensitive areas (and within 3 metres of these areas), such as public parks or gardens, playgrounds, recreation or sports grounds, public paths, as well as ecologically sensitive areas

Exceptional EU support: Farmers will be supported by the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in this transition: for 5 years, Member States can use the CAP to cover the costs of the new requirements for farmers.

The new rules will be laid down in a Regulation, which is directly binding on all Member States.

Scientists and citizens are increasingly concerned about the use of pesticides and the build-up of their residues and metabolites in the environment. In the final report of the Conference on the Future of Europe citizens specifically requested to address the use and risk of pesticides.

There are major risks to the health of citizens linked to the use of chemical pesticides, especially for those persons using them but also for vulnerable groups and children. Pesticides can cause both acute and long-term health impacts.

Chemical pesticides can have dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological, carcinogenic, respiratory, reproductive, and endocrine effects.

High occupational, accidental, or intentional exposure to pesticides can result in hospitalisation and death.

Already in 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that about one million cases of unintentional pesticide poisonings occur annually, leading to approximately 20,000 deaths.

A recent review estimates that about 385 million cases of unintentional acute pesticide poisonings occur annually world-wide including around 11,000 fatalities.

In agricultural areas, the use of some chemical pesticides contribute to the decline of pollinators which are necessary to feed a growing world population.

75% of global food crop types rely on animal pollination and 50% of land in the EU cultivated with crops dependent on pollinators already faces a pollination deficit.

In the EU, up to almost €15 billion of the EU's annual agricultural output is directly attributed to insect pollinators. 10% of bee and butterfly species in Europe are on the verge of extinction, and 33% of them are in decline.

Reducing our dependence on chemical pesticides is therefore a key part of the process of building more resilient, sustainable food systems for 2030 and beyond. In case of inaction, the outlook for all environmental indicators is bleak with further declines in biodiversity according to reports by the European Environment Agency, the EU Ecosystems Assessment and researchers.

The EU Group of Chief Scientific Advisers already concluded in 2020 that, although the EU food system has achieved high levels of food security, food safety and a wide consumer choice, it is not sustainable with respect to environmental, economic and social aspects. Continuing ‘business as usual' will significantly endanger natural resources, our health, the climate, and the economy.

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