A key committee of the European Parliament has agreed by a ratio of 47:37 to strict regulation of pesticides on European fields. By 2030, their use should drop by half. However, the long-planned plan may still fail.
The entire European Parliament will discuss pesticides during November, and it is customary that the position of specialists from the relevant committee is respected during the final vote of the whole body. However, consent is then also needed from the council of ministers of the member countries, where a strong opposition group of 11 states, including the Czech Republic, is emerging.
Minister of Agriculture Marek Výborný (KDU-ČSL) rejects regulation on the grounds that the Czech Republic has already reduced pesticide consumption sufficiently in the past and that it is ahead of other countries. He therefore considers it unfair to take the current level as the starting line and to demand a general drop by half across all countries.
Ministers from ten other countries, including Italy and Poland, view the matter in the same way. This is a strong enough bloc to bury the norm in the final or to negotiate concessions as part of negotiating the final text. A group of opponents demands in principle that national plans be less binding and that efforts be left more to individual countries.
According to proponents of regulation, such a softening carries the risk that the standard will end up being similarly toothless as today’s regulations. In the past, these were also supposed to lead to the elimination of pesticides, but in practice they brought only minimal change over the last decade.
Sensitive topic and rationalization
Both of its Czech members – Alexandr Vondra from ODS and Stanislav Polčák from STAN – voted against on Tuesday. “I am in favor of a gradual, rational reduction of pesticides,” Vondra said after the vote. According to him, the adopted version sets too drastic reduction targets for farmers and was passed without consultation with the ECR and EPP factions. “At the plenary session, we will still try to change it with amendments,” added Vondra.
According to Výborny, it is also possible that the delicate topic, where nature protection collides with the interests of agribusiness, will ultimately remain unfinished until the elections. “After the experience of several negotiations, I am not completely optimistic that the matter regarding pesticides would be able to be concluded within the electoral period of this parliament,” said the Minister for SZ News even before the committee’s vote on Tuesday.
The standard partially responds to Výborný’s objection in that the starting point from which the target fifty percent decrease would be measured will not be the current state, but the average consumption in the years 2013-2017. For more advanced countries, the targets could eventually be more moderate.
However, the resulting goal would be legally binding for each country. The individual states, together with the European Commission, would develop timetables for themselves on how to proceed, and these would then be evaluated by the commission every year. In case of non-compliance, the states would face fines. It would therefore be difficult to get out of the accepted commitments later.
According to the current version of the standard, the European Commission should also ensure that stricter standards regarding the use of pesticides also apply to crops imported to Europe from other continents – and that non-compliant goods do not reach the European market at all.