Nature Restoration Law, reduction of pesticides. MEPs at the service of agro-industrial lobbies

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Nature Restoration Law

Civil society, in a document signed by over 200 organizations, asks the European institutions for effective protection of ecosystems through the ‘Nature Restoration Law’. (1) Preserve biodiversity, protect natural environments that are still intact, and restore those that are being degraded. A drastic reduction in the use of pesticides is equally necessary, but the European Parliament continues to favor the requests of the agro-industrial ‘lobbies’. #CleanSpades.

1) Nature Restoration Law, downward negotiations?

The proposal of regulation for the restoration of nature – despite the attempted boycott of the popular, liberal and nationalist political groups (European People’s Party, Renew Europe and ID, Identity and Democracy) – was approved at first reading, on 12 July 2023, by Parliament European (2,3,4).

The approach of the European elections and the institutions’ backtracking from the objectives declared in the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy, however, lead civil society organizations to fear a downward negotiation on #NatureRestoration in the current trilogue phase. (5)

1.2) #NatureRestoration, the appeal of civil society

The protection and the restoration of natural areas in the European Union cannot ignore, according to the 200 signatory organisations, the following key points:

  • prediction of measurable and time-defined objectives for all terrestrial and aquatic habitats, both in Natura 2000 areas and outside them, (6)
  • restoration of agricultural ecosystems, ‘fundamental to the resilience of food systems‘, with specific objectives for the restoration of drained peat bogs,
  • immediate application of the new rules, without preconditions, to achieve the recovery objectives,
  • dedicated and additional funding for #NatureRestoration measures,
  • public participation and access to environmental justice.

2) Pesticides and biodiversity

The restoration of agricultural ecosystems – which also constitute an indicator for the restoration of agricultural and forest ecosystems – is first and foremost linked to biodiversity, which depends to a large extent on the levels of use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.

The consumption of pesticides in the EU, unlike what the large agricultural confederations assert, are not decreasing. The data published by Eurostat show a moderate increase in sales of ‘pesticides’ which reached 2021 tonnes in 355.175, +2,7% compared to 2020, distributed as follows:
– Sales volumes. ‘fungicides and bactericides’ in first place (44%), followed by ‘herbicides, haulm destroyers and moss killers’ (34%), ‘insecticides and acaricides’ (14%)

– Member countries. The largest volumes of pesticides were sold in Spain (21% of the EU total), France (20%), Germany and Italy (both 14%). (7,8)

2.1) Smuggling of pesticides

Europol – with the collaboration of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) – has been conducting the annual ‘Silver-Axe’ operation since 2015 , to counter the trade of illegal ‘pesticides’.

2.040 tons of fake and/or illegal agrotoxics were seized by the police between January and April 2023, almost 7.000 tonnes in eight years, with various arrests and production plants dismantled. (9) Without even touching on the smuggling of pesticides on ‘online marketplaces’ whose numbers could be very different, as seen in the USA. (10)

3) ‘Sustainable Use and Reduction of Pesticides’

61,7% of the agricultural area European Union, equal to 2,3 million km2, is in conditions of ‘high risk of pesticide pollution, according to the largest study ever conducted on a global level on this topic (Tang et al., 2021). (11)

‘Sustainable Use and Reduction of Pesticides’ (SUR) – the proposed EU regulation aimed at promoting a drastic reduction in the use of pesticides in agriculture – has therefore received broad support from civil society. (12)

3.1) Reduction of pesticides, interference from MEPs

The AGRI Commission (Agriculture and Rural Development) of the European Parliament, however, adopted an opinion aimed at nullifying the application of the SUR regulation:

– under the guise of an extension of the deadline to achieve the pesticide reduction objectives, from 2030 to 2035,

– MEPs reduced the reduction targets at national level, from 50 to 35%, and above all requested

– eliminate the clause that conditions European funding to farmers, within the scope of the Common Agricultural Policy, on the effective reduction of the use of pesticides, herbicides and other toxic chemical substances. (13)

4) Provisional conclusions

The MEPs which should represent the fundamental rights to public health and the environment, together with the governments of the Member States who have committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the UN Agenda 2030, continue to betray European citizens and mortgage the future of the next generations.

Coldiretti – the sprawling power group that is also taking control of the Italian federation of the organic system (14) – is thus leading its battle to continue ‘agribusiness as usual’. Through the European megaphones – Copa Cogeca and Farm Europe – and the faithful MEP Paolo De Castro, president of his organization Filiera Italia (15,16). Conflicts of interest?

#Clean shovels

Dario Dongo

Footnotes

(1) #RestoreNature joint statement https://tinyurl.com/4m967j22

(2) Dario Dongo. Nature Restoration Law, the European Parliament boycotts the restoration of biodiversity. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(3) Dario Dongo, Alessandra Mei. Nature Restoration Law, the European Parliament approves the proposal. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(4) Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on nature restoration. Amendments adopted by the European Parliament on 12 July 2023 https://tinyurl.com/48t2h44z

(5) The trilogue is the discussion that takes place between the delegates of the European Parliament (representing, at least theoretically, the citizens) and the Council (i.e. the governments of the member states) with the European Commission, to reach an agreement on the final text of a proposal for an EU regulation or directive

(6) The Natura 2000 network was established by Habitat Directive No 92/43/EEC, to guarantee the biodiversity of ecosystems across Europe. https://natura2000.eea.europa.eu/

(7) Eurostat. Agri-environmental indicator – consumption of pesticides https://tinyurl.com/4443zcnn

(8) Eurostat. Pesticide sales https://tinyurl.com/pww375en

(9) Europol. 2 040 tonnes of illegal pesticides seized and 21 suspects arrested in global operation. 13.10.23 https://tinyurl.com/bdxaffcu

(10) Dario Dongo. USA, eBay on trial for the illegal sale of pesticides. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.10.23

(11) Marta Strinati. Pesticides, two thirds of the planet at risk of environmental pollution. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(12) Dario Dongo. Sustainable use of pesticides, support for the Wiener report. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(13) Natasha Foote. Agri MEPs Move to Weaken Pesticide Regulation and Starve it of CAP funds. Arc2020. 10.10.23 https://tinyurl.com/265vjphm

(14) Dario Dongo. Coldiretti to conquer the organic sector. #Clean spades. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(15) The top management of Filiera Italia has been renewed: Paolo De Castro president, Ettore Prandini vice. Feeding. 11.11.22 https://tinyurl.com/z5mcvmdy

(16) Michela Cappellini. The reduction of pesticides in European fields will be more flexible. The sun 24 hours. 10.10.23 https://tinyurl.com/y4ftnzb9

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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