European Union’s Plan to Safeguard Parks, Playgrounds, and Food Against Pesticides

EU Pesticide Reduction Plan

With the objective of “a fair, healthy, and environmentally respectful food system,” new rules proposed by the European Commission (EC), the executive branch of the European Union (EU), zero in on reducing the use of pesticides throughout the EU by 2030.

According to the Indian biweekly publication, Down to Earth, the proposed rules – part of the EC’s Farm to Fork initiative—optimistically cover a significant swath of environmental improvements: “The draft law calls for halving pesticide use across Europe by 2030 and dismantling big dams to make rivers free-flowing, among other things. The proposal aims to contribute to the continuous, long-term, and sustained recovery of biodiverse and resilient nature across the EU’s land and sea areas by restoring ecosystems. It is also expected to contribute to achieving the EU’s climate mitigation and climate adaptation objectives.”

What Are the Proposed New Rules?

In June 2022, the EC responded to scientists and citizens who have expressed concern over the increasing risks of pesticide use in agriculture and public areas like playgrounds and hiking trails. The new rules focus on sustainable food production, environmentally safe public spaces, and protected ecologically sensitive areas. The action points the EC pesticide rules propose are summarized as follows:

  • Legally binding targets to reduce by half the use of chemical and hazardous pesticides by 2030
  • Enforcement of environmentally friendly pest control (alternative methods are considered first, with chemical pesticides being used as a last resort)
  • A ban on the use of all pesticides in sensitive areas and within about 10 feet of these areas, which include:
    • public parks
    • playgrounds
    • recreation or sports grounds
    • public paths
    • ecologically sensitive areas
  • EU financial support to farmers to cover the costs of the new requirements

Why Is There a Need for New Rules?

Former rules on pesticide use were reportedly not strong enough and not fully implemented across EU member states. Studies that evaluated what had already been accomplished “showed that there was insufficient progress in reducing the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment.”

The EC said that there will still be a need for a limited amount for pesticides because “climate change will also accelerate the spread of pests and lead to the emergence of new pests. The new rules will reduce the use of chemical pesticides while simultaneously ensuring that they are available when all other control tools have been exhausted.” But the EC emphasized: “However, chemical pesticides should be used only as a last resort.”

Who Opposes the New Rules?

Some food production groups and government officials oppose the proposed new rules on pesticide use, Agri-Pulse reported. Concern revolves around how much the new EC rules would prevent farmers from keeping up with food production, particularly as the need has increased due to Ukraine’s inability to export as many crops as it had before the current war with the Soviet Union.

For example, European Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said, “If food security is in danger, then we need to have another look at the objectives (of Farm to Fork) and possibly correct them.”

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