Still resistance from EU agriculture against 'less-chemistry-in-agri'

Agriculture minister Piet Adema believes that a reduction in the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides in Dutch agriculture and horticulture is urgently needed, especially in greenhouses and bulb fields.

Together with several other EU countries, Adema again pleaded (so far: unsuccessfully) for the European Commission's SUR pesticide proposal at the Agricultural Council in Luxembourg on Monday, but a large number of Eastern European countries are still opposed to it.

In order to break through this impasse, Commissioners Frans Timmermans (Climate), Virginius Sinkevicius (Environment) and Stella Kyriakides (Food Safety) have, at the request of the hesitant LNV ministers, conducted an additional study over the past six months into the possible consequences of an intended halving. of chemistry-in-agri. This shows, among other things, that it only has real consequences for only a few small crops (and hardly any for grains or maize).

It is also now clearly recognized that the use of chemicals in extreme cases remains permitted, provided that farmers adhere to the eight-step process of the long-established (but not always adhered to) Integrated Pesticide Management (IPM). 

In addition, the outgoing president of Sweden has introduced two compromises whereby the heavy reduction only applies to health-threatening 'dangerous' substances, that it will apply to a smaller area (75 instead of 90 %), and that there will only be a ban on the use of public spaces (parks, public gardens, sports fields, etc.). A calculation formula of kilos per hectare will probably be used, but that is not yet certain.

That additional study will be presented next week (July 5), that is the intention. But because Agriculture ministers have not yet formally agreed to it, it is unclear how and when this 'still-wandering proposal' should be mapped out.

Next week a proposal would also be presented to allow gene technology (crisp-cas) on a limited scale. The agricultural organization is very much in favor of that, but Commissioner Timmermans said last month that if the ministers or parliament reject and block the nature restoration law or the reduction of pesticides, then the new gene technology will not be necessary either. Adema says it is 'ready to use and we can start using it tomorrow'.

After the deliberation, the minister said he had the impression that some hesitant colleagues seem to be moving on. They have instructed the new (temporary) EU chairman, the Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, to get this SUR pesticide proposal going as quickly as possible.

Adema also said that Dutch horticulturists, breeders and farmers should not only be forced to switch to 'green' plant protection products with the imminent reduction, but that they should also be stimulated with subsidies, training and practical help. He pointed out that especially the greenhouses in Westland and flower bulb cultivation on sandy soils will have to deal with stricter rules. 'We see it in the water quality, not just in the Westland. There's just too much of that stuff in our nature."

He also said that in the Netherlands, the Ctgb has recently given priority to the authorization of nature-friendly products. 'In the past, there were many more applications for chemical products than for natural variants. All applications were processed in the order they were received. If there was ever a nature-friendly one in between, he had to wait his turn. Now we do them alternately', Adema clarified.