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EU scrapping plan to halve pesticide use

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-02-08 09:36

Organic producing farmers, one holding a placard that reads, 'who could have predicted the biodiversity crisis' gather during a protest outside the National Assembly, as French ministers arrive for a session of questions to the government, in Paris on Feb 7, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced her intention to scrap a controversial bill aimed at reducing the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture, in an apparent concession to protesting farmers.

Speaking to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, von der Leyen proposed withdrawing plans to cut the use of pesticides by 50 percent, calling it a "symbol of polarization" as farmers across the European Union continued to stage protests over rising costs, taxes, and cheap food imports.

"Our farmers deserve to be listened to," von der Leyen said.

The commission initially introduced the Sustainable Use of Pesticides regulation, or SUR, in 2020, as part of its green deal, which has been regarded as von der Leyen's flagship policy initiative aimed at achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

The formal proposal for the SUR bill was later made, in June 2022, with a target to reduce pesticide use and associated risks by 50 percent by 2030.

Von der Leyen acknowledged that the matter remains unresolved and indicated that additional discussions would be necessary before a revised proposal to minimize use of pesticides can be presented, reported the BBC.

In a social media post, the European farmers' alliance COPA-COGECA welcomed von der Leyen's remarks.

"The EU Commission finally acknowledges that its approach was not the right one, and so strengthens the credibility and importance of the current strategic dialogue," said the lobby's president, Christiane Lambert.

The proposal marks a significant reversal for the commission, because it had previously prioritized reducing the use of synthetic pesticides, due to mounting evidence of their detrimental impacts on the environment and human health, reported Politico.

Facing increasing political opposition from center-right and populist politicians in the run-up to June's European Parliament elections, and amid widespread farmer protests across the continent of Europe, including an incident near the Parliament last week, the EU executive decided to withdraw its support for the law.

The move has alarmed environmental organizations, which have raised concerns over the potential erosion of von der Leyen's green deal, reported Euronews.

"Pesticide pollution is a huge problem that has to be tackled," said Martin Dermine, director of Pesticide Action Network Europe. "It pollutes our waters, harms our health, and destroys the biodiversity that we depend on. It destroys fertile soil and endangers food production in the long run."

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