(Source: European Commission)
“Check against delivery”
Chair, Honourable Members,
I remember sitting in Parliament for my hearing, and one of the most important issues that was raised was the issue of pesticides. It showed the importance the Parliament gave, and continues to give, to this issue, also as a result of the concerns of our citizens.
I committed to finding solutions for the protection of our health, our environment and our pollinators.
Today, I am happy to confirm, that even with an ongoing global pandemic and a war in Europe, we never lost sight of this critical issue, as it is one of the priorities of our Farm to Fork Strategy.
The Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies outlined our ambition: to halve the use and risk of chemical pesticides and the use of more hazardous pesticides by 2030.
Our proposal for a Regulation on the Sustainable Use of pesticides makes our ambition a reality.
So I’m very glad we’re finally able to meet today to discuss it.
You know very well how important the reduction of use of pesticides is for our citizens. From European Citizen Initiatives to the recent Conference for the Future of Europe: citizens have been loud and clear.
They want less pesticides. They want a different food system. One that works with nature, not against it.
We are being asked to fix today’s challenges so that future generations might enjoy safe and health food produced respecting both nature and farmers.
Our proposal is a significant milestone on our journey towards a more sustainable and resilient food system.
Let me take you through three of its key measures.
Firstly, we are proposing legally binding targets at EU level to get us to both targets by 2030.
To make sure we deliver, Member States will set their own national reduction targets within defined parameters to ensure that both EU-wide targets are achieved. These national targets will be legally binding.
Secondly, we are proposing a ban on all pesticides in sensitive areas (and within 3 metres of those areas).
Citizens do not want pesticides where they walk, where they go to enjoy nature or where children play.
The ban will cover urban green areas – including public parks or gardens, playgrounds and public paths – as well as Natura 2000 protected areas.
Pesticides should not be used in any ecologically sensitive areas reserved for threatened pollinators.
Thirdly, we will give farmers a comprehensive toolbox in the form of Integrated Pest Management.
This is an environmentally friendly pest control system, with chemical pesticides used only as a last resort.
It involves crop-specific rules to be set by Member States, showing which alternatives should be used instead of chemical pesticides, along with mandatory record-keeping for farmers and other professional users.
We haven’t stopped at these three key measures. Sustainability also means finding alternatives to chemical pesticides; an issue we have already discussed in the past.
We have been – and will remain – very active in this area.
We proposed new rules for micro-organisms, so that these biological alternatives reach the farmers faster. This proposal is under scrutiny by this Parliament and will adopted as soon as we have your agreement.
The more resources we collectively invest in assessing plant protection products, the more and safer alternatives we will have.
I call on farmer organisations to demand safer and better alternatives and on industry to deliver them as quickly as possible.
Our proposal introduces measures to boost the uptake of alternative, non-chemical pest control methods. This will involve:
- on the one hand, requiring Member States to set positive targets – for example for the use of biocontrol agents; and
- on the other hand, requiring farmers and other professional users of pesticides to obtain independent advice on alternative methods.
We can, must and will support our farmers in this journey towards more sustainability.
The Common Agricultural Policy provides a wide range of tools to enable that to happen.
Our proposal offers an exceptional support measure: all the obligations we propose will be covered by the CAP. All, without exception.
In their CAP national strategic plans, Member States will tell us how they will use the funding to meet objectives for the sustainable use of pesticides.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means we must find solutions in the short-term.
We have done so and will continue to. But our duty is to also consider the future.
Without a sustainable food system, we put food security at risk. The costs of inaction outweighs the costs related to this transition.
I look to the Members of this Committee – and to the European Parliament as a whole – to work with us to maintain the level of ambition in this proposal during the negotiations in the months ahead.
Together we can set the European Union on a path towards sustainability. One that delivers for everyone: farmers, citizens and nature.
And I can tell you with confidence here today: time is up for chemical pesticides.
We have delivered on our commitment. We believe in this proposal. I hope that, together with Parliament and the Member States, we will be able to deliver on our citizens’ expectations.