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“The collapse of nature”: Proposal submitted to EU calling for pesticide control
Various civil society organizations across the EU are calling for pesticides to be phased out, biodiversity to be restored and farmers to be supported during a food and farming system transformation. This is detailed in a proposal submitted to the European Commission (EC) for a European Citizens’ Initiative asking for new legislation. The EC now has two months to approve the proposal before campaigners try to gather a million signatures, which then triggers the EC to decide on follow-up action. This comes as international scientists are calling for an urgent “transformative change” to stop “the collapse of nature,” which would have major impacts on agriculture.
“Our current industrial agricultural model is dependent on monocultures and the intensive use of synthetic pesticides, which not only pollute our food and environment, but are also one of the major drivers of biodiversity and ecosystem collapse. It makes no sense to maintain a system damaging ourselves and our environment: we urgently need to phase out pesticide use and put people’s health and the planet back at the heart of EU agricultural policy,” says Dr. Martin Dermine of the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe.
The legal proposals are to:
Phase-out synthetic pesticides by 2035: Phase out synthetic pesticides in EU agriculture by 80 percent by 2030, starting with the most hazardous, to become 100 percent free of synthetic pesticides by 2035;
Restore biodiversity: Restore natural ecosystems in agricultural areas so that farming becomes a vector of biodiversity recovery;
Support farmers in the transition: Reform agriculture by prioritizing small scale, diverse and sustainable farming, supporting a rapid increase in agroecological and organic practice and enabling independent farmer-based training and research into pesticide-free and GMO-free farming.
The involved parties span sectors including the environment, health, agriculture and beekeeping. Some notable organizations include the European networks Friends of the Earth Europe and PAN, as well as the Munich Environmental Institute, the Aurelia Foundation (Germany), Générations Futures (France) and GLOBAL 2000/Friends of the Earth Austria.
“We are facing an emergency with nature disappearing at an unprecedented rate. We are launching this campaign to show that the public supports decision-makers to take much bolder steps to transform our agriculture, save nature and support sustainable farmers that protect our countryside,” says Adrian Bebb, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.
Slashing pesticide use, along with ecologically-based farming, will help to halt or reverse the decline in insect populations, which are important for pollinating plants. In addition, four million small farms disappeared between 2005 and 2016 in the EU and have since been replaced by large agroindustrial businesses exacerbating the crisis even further, the scientists say.
“Bee-keepers face an existential threat due to the increasingly limited and pesticide-contaminated food base for pollinating insects. We need diverse landscapes and environmentally-friendly farms for bees to exist and bee-keepers to thrive. Bees and farmers need an ambitious – but realistic – systemic change that is only possible with a rigorous phasing out of the use of synthetic pesticides and a new direction for EU agricultural policy,” adds Thomas Radetzki, Master-Beekeeper and Board Member of the Aurelia Foundation.
Clothianidin, a widely used agricultural pesticide, was recently found to cause honey bees to become more susceptible to deadly varroa mites. The reason behind this is clothianidin’s debilitating effect on bees’ self-grooming behavior, which typically deters infestations of parasitic mites.
Earlier this year, a mathematician developed a chemical-free parasite deterrent for wheat. The procedure is a chemical-free process of bioengineering that involves exposing the wheat plant to natural biostimulants in order to stimulate the desired characteristics.