‘The Great Pesticides Debate’ Highlights Need for EU to Return to Science-based Decision Making

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At a first-of-its-kind debate in Brussels on 16 November 2016, two teams with opposing views on an often-polarising question came head-to-head. The motion “Slashing pesticides use will prevent farmers from providing enough safe and affordable food” was at the centre of the interactive discussion held at Bibliothèque Solvay, announces ECPA.

Graeme Taylor, European Crop Protection Association (ECPA)

The debate on pesticides is a complex one. We don’t say pesticides are a panacea, but it’s vital that policy makers understand the benefits they bring, and base decisions on facts, not fear.

At a first-of-its-kind debate in Brussels today, two teams with opposing views on an often-polarising question came head-to-head. The motion “Slashing pesticides use will prevent farmers from providing enough safe and affordable food” was at the centre of the interactive discussion held at Bibliothèque Solvay. A group of farmers from across Europe travelled to Brussels to witness the debate, and they demanded a ‘return to science-based decision making’ at the EU-level.

“The debate on pesticides is a complex one. We don’t say pesticides are a panacea, but it’s vital that policy makers understand the benefits they bring, and base decisions on facts, not fear,” said Graeme Taylor, spokesperson for the pesticides industry. “We understand there are concerns and questions about our products. We want people to know that we are listening and that we understand these concerns, and we are not afraid to have an open and honest debate about our contribution.”

The proposing team was led by Herbert Dorfmann MEP (Group of the European People’s Party/Christian Democrats, Italy), with the opposing team led by Margrete Auken MEP (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, Denmark). Each MEP was joined in their teams by a scientist specialising in the topic, plus a farmer.

"Farming on a large scale without crop protection is impossible,” Dorfmann said during the debate. When asked about farmers' use of pesticides, he said "Choice must be driven by market orientation, not by politics.”

Steward Redqueen’s 2016 “Cumulative impact of hazard-based legislation on crop protection products in Europe” underlines the benefits of pesticides and shows how important it is for EU farmers to have access to the tools they need, not only to stay competitive, but to help feed a growing global population set to reach almost 10 billion by 2050. The study estimates that due to hazard-based legislation in the EU, 75 of 400 important substances currently available to farmers might be withdrawn from the market. And according to the study, without pesticides, EU farmers might lose up to 85% of their yields for certain crops.

“The impact of the delay in new pesticides reaching the market is real. I need access to chemicals. Ten years ago there were 1,000 available; now there are only 500,” said Michal Kostrzewa, a farmer from Poland. “If I don't have access to pesticides, my production would decrease between 50 and 70 percent. And without a doubt, consumer food prices will go up.”

Danish farmer Ole Christiansen said, “The situation on a farm is something that only farmers can appreciate. We take care of our plants, we produce the food. Politicians need to listen to the facts before they make decisions about availability of pesticides.”

NOTES:
A group of European farmers who witnessed The Great Pesticides Debate participated in a post-event analysis called
“Farmers Unfiltered” organised by the European Crop Protection Association and broadcast live on Facebook. Watch it on Facebook (@CropProtection).

The Debate can be viewed in full: http://www.politico.eu/event/the-great-pesticides-debate/

POLITICO was the host of The Great Pesticides Debate, and ECPA sponsored the event.

For more details: http://www.ecpa.eu/with-or-without

On Twitter: #WithOrWithout

Photos: Available upon request

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