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EU lawmakers have dismissed a proposal aiming to halve pesticide usage

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

EU parliament strikes down pesticide reduction

Defeat marks a “dark day” for European society, the environment and farmers, says lawmaker who led negotiations on the bill.

EU lawmakers have dismissed a proposal aiming to halve pesticide usage within the bloc, prompting significant concerns about the implications for drinking water and the environment.

This decision, following opposition from right-wing politicians and farmers, signifies a setback for the European Union's ambitious Green Deal climate law. The rejected regulation was a pivotal component of this legislation, designed not only to curtail greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 but also to bolster biodiversity and ecosystems.

The rejection, an uncommon turn of events, now forces the European Commission to contemplate withdrawing the proposal. The vote tallied 299 against the regulation, 207 in favor, and 121 abstentions.

Conservative lawmakers celebrated this outcome as a win for farmers, intensifying their focus on agriculture as a vital political constituency ahead of the upcoming EU-wide elections. However, environmentalists and advocates for restrictions on pesticide usage were dismayed by the decision.

Sarah Wiener, an Austrian lawmaker central to the law's negotiations, lamented the vote as a "very dark day for the environment and farmers," criticizing the lack of willingness to compromise from the political right, far-right factions, and Euro-skeptics.

Jutta Paulus, a German Green MEP, expressed concern: "The conservatives are endangering the health of farmers and biodiversity by vehemently opposing pesticide reduction. The extensive use of pesticides poses a threat to biodiversity, subsequently impacting our drinking water, clean air, and fertile soils."

The rejected legislation had set a target to cut pesticide usage by 50% by 2030 while encouraging the adoption of eco-friendly pest-control methods among farmers. Over a million EU citizens had petitioned for a complete phaseout of pesticides within the EU, citing concerns about environmental and health hazards. However, farming organizations, like the EU's Copa Cogeca, argued that reducing pesticide use by over 50% would harm yields and jeopardize food production across the bloc.

Differences in pesticide use among the EU's 27 member states also played a role, with some Eastern European countries seeking exemptions to the law, citing their existing lower levels of chemical pest control. Additionally, concerns about the legislation's impact on food security, particularly following geopolitical tensions like Russia's invasion of Ukraine, prompted demands for further analysis from EU agriculture ministers.

Maroš Šefčovič, the EU's Green Deal commissioner, highlighted that while chemical pesticides offer short-term yield stability, reducing their use could yield positive effects on food production in the medium to long term, countering climate change, biodiversity loss, and land degradation.

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