Food chain coalition says crop protection solutions urgently needed in the EU to preserve safety and diversity of agri-food products

A broad coalition of associations representing Europe's agriculture and food chain industries has called on the EU to do much more to find solutions to the lack of plant protection products for specialty crops, such as fruits and vegetables, rice, flowers or seeds.

In February 2014 the European Commission (DG SANCO) published a long awaited report on the establishment of a European fund for these so-called minor uses products.

The agri-food chain associations agree that the proposal does not go far enough, leaving many problems still unresolved.

The proposed platform at EU level for coordination of existing activities on minor uses and specialty crops via a secretariat is a good start the bodies say, but does not offer a long-term perspective.

"The lack of proper plant protection solutions compromises not only the competitiveness of the entire agri-food chain – the EU being the second largest producer of fruit and vegetables in the world and also the second largest importer – but it also compromises the sustainability of the sector to prevent and control new emerging pests, the employment generated within the sector, and more importantly the diversity of high quality agri-food products in Europe", said Pekka Pesonen, COPA-COGECA Secretary General on behalf of the agri-food chain partners.

"These may be referred to as "minor crops", but they are of major importance to the European economy, and to consumers," said Jean-Charles Bocquet, Director General of the European Crop Protection Association.

"To better provide plant protection solutions, we need not only more coordination but also a mechanism in place for boosting cooperation and part funding of research projects. Only in this way will we address all problems by leveraging common solutions for all minor uses and specialty crops in a cost effective manner.

"Otherwise we will continue to learn about problems from one another and not have solutions available to address them."

The agri-food chain partners propose a more permanent programme on minor uses and specialty crops to be developed within a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth policy in line with Europe 2020 objectives.

Such a programme should provide funding to support and boost initiatives to find minor use solutions. A similar programme is already in place in the USA, and for each dollar spent on that programme, it has been calculated that there is an economic benefit of $500 (Annual spending of $14 million providing an annual economic benefit of $7.7 billion).

The EU's regulatory process for plant protection products has had an especially severe impact on the availability of products for specialty crops and minor uses.

There is a need to review by December 2014 the Regulation 1107/2009 on the authorization of plant protection products in the EU while complying with the high safety legal requirements.

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