Commission withdraws law on chemical pesticide use after protest

A proposal on for a regulation on the sustainable use of plant protection products, which stirred hostilities between policymakers and farmers, was withdrawn on 6 February.
Marton Kottmayer,

Numerous farmers gathered in protest in front of the European Parliament in Brussels on 31 January and 1 February. The protests were opposing a number of regulations related to farming, within the framework of Green Deal and the Farm to fork strategy. According to the protesters the proposed regulations would burden the agricultural industry, by introducing too many “red tapes”. The controversial regulation, namely the “Sustainable Use Regulation” (SUR) was not alien to chemicals policy, as it concerned limiting chemical pesticides, decreasing their use by 50% by 2030, in order to protect soil health and biodiversity.

However, due to the pressure by farmers, who protested not only in Brussels, but in a number of major European capitals, the European Commission has withdrawn SUR. On 6 February, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced that she “proposes to the College to withdraw this proposal” as it has “became a symbol of polarisation”. While she highlighted the need for a legislation on pesticides and sustainability, this is unlikely to happen before the European elections this June.

While a number of policymakers welcome the decision, such as MEP Alexander Bernhuber, stating that the EU should start “working with farmers to tackle climate change rather than against them”, others expressed their disapproval. Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Pascal Canfin is one of them – as the revision of the text was on the agenda of the ENVI committee, and was also discussed not long before the protests, at the exchange of views between the Belgian Presidency and ENVI, on 29 January. A number of environmental organisations are also disappointed with the decision, citing the European Environmental Agency’s report on the serious damages heavy pesticide use causes.

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