Press Release 06.10.2022

foodwatch: EU Commission’s draft for sustainable pesticide use regulation “misleading” and “fundamentally flawed”

Reports question core tools of proposal

Brussels, 6 October 2022:  Consumer organisation foodwatch criticised the European Commission's draft proposal for a regulation on the sustainable pesticide use (SUR) as misleading the public into believing that progress has been made in reducing pesticide toxicity. Two of the fundamental tools in the proposal, the Harmonized Risk Indicator (HRI) and the Integrated Pest Management (IPM), are fundamentally flawed, as foodwatch explains in two short reports released today.

The Harmonised Risk Indicator (HRI) is referred to 25 times in the draft of the SUR, but does not provide a useful tool of measuring the risks of pesticides, foodwatch said. It fails to measure both the exposure of pesticides in the environment and their toxicity.

foodwatch proposed alternative, suitable, science based indicators to measure pesticide exposure and the associated toxic burden, that take into account human health, eco toxicity, ecological effects and ground water leaching potential. foodwatch demanded a change in the methodology to evaluate pesticide use and calls for full transparency by the Member States on the use of each active ingredient.

The concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) exists for about 60 years and hypothetically it could reduce pesticide use to a strict minimum, or even to zero. It was made obligatory throughout the European Union in 2014. “Chemical pesticides should be used only as a last resort”, writes the European Commission in the Q&A about the proposed SUR.  That is “the key principle of Integrated Pest Management which will be better implemented by this proposal”.

However, the text of the SUR proposal does not deliver, foodwatch says. There is a lack of a clear IPM definition and a clear legal framework to ensure pesticides really are a “last resort”. All over the EU, with the exception of Denmark where a pesticide tax is in place, pesticides remain the “first choice”.

“Integrated Pest Management will only be a successful pesticides reduction tool, when accompanied by effective incentives such as taxation, (legislative) restrictions and funding (subsidies). Simply publishing mandatory IPM guidelines and hoping that this will reduce pesticide use has not worked in the past. Hope is not a strategy“, criticised Lars Neumeister, pesticides expert at foodwatch.

According to foodwatch, the SUR proposal is not an accident or an oversight. The Harmonised Risk Indicator (HRI) as it is, allows Member States and the European Commission to communicate supposed improvements through calculation tricks. Alongside with the insufficient definition of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), the regulation will not result in any pesticide reduction in the field. 

“If both the Harmonized Risk Indicator (HRI) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) are not fundamentally improved, the Commission and the Member States may enjoy avoiding a conflict with the almighty pesticide and the agriculture industries, but it will be a serious failure towards the common good. It is a deliberate misleading of European citizens,” Lars Neumeister said.