EU must work with industry on pesticides

Of all the arguments made against those challenging the most extreme proposals for restrictions on pesticide use, now at their second reading in the European Parliament, the most extraordinary is the allegation of scaremongering over the proposals' likely impact on industry.

Indeed, this appears now to be the only argument being put forward to counter the steadily growing recognition across Europe of the potentially devastating impact of the most stringent of the EU's pesticide proposals.

Green MEP and environment committee member Hiltrud Breyer, who is a key protagonist for the most stringent controls, has repeated this "scaremongering" claim several times - but has yet to produce evidence to back it up. She even claims the proposals will be good for production horticulture - but declines to explain how, given the huge fall in productivity that will occur if pesticides are cut from the grower's armoury to the degree proposed.

Unlike the study by the UK's Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD), the only impact assessment carried out by European officials didn't include the controversial "cut off" criteria pushed for by Breyer and her allies. Meanwhile, the case against excessive restrictions is growing. The Dutch Federation of Agriculture & Horticulture's analysis clearly echoes the PSD's report, with its estimation that production of saleable bulbs in Holland would crash by 80 per cent under the hazard-based criteria being put forward in amendments in the European Parliament to reduce pesticide availability (see p4).

As horticulture professionals have pointed out, no one is against the responsible reduction of agrochemicals. It is already happening - and great strides have been made in the UK in managing pesticide risk. But until there are viable alternatives, the EU must work with our professionals if it is committed to the retention of a vibrant horticulture industry.

A brighter note is the tabling by British MEPs of an amendment calling for a full EU-wide impact assessment, to be voted on by the environment committee next week. In the face of the growing body of evidence pointing to the damage the most stringent proposals will cause, the European Parliament's environment committee must vote in favour of this amendment.

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