Open Letter - We request transparency in pesticide use across Europe
Today we sent an Open Letter with 78 other organisations to:
Mr Denormandie, French Minister of Agriculture
Mr Tavernier, Director General of INSEE
Mr Gentiloni, Commissioner for the Economy
Mr Kokkalis, MEP rapporteur for the European Parliament
Subject: The reform of agriculture statistics (File 2021/0020 COD)
On behalf of 79 organisations across Europe, including environmental and health associations, beekeepers associations, trade unions, the organisers of the European Citizens’ Initiative “Save Bees and Farmers”, the European umbrella organisation for organic food and farming, and the European association of drinking water and waste water services, we are writing to voice our concerns regarding the ongoing EU reform of agriculture statistics.
Specifically, we are concerned about the limited availability of data on the use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals in agriculture.
The Council just recently adopted its position which raises serious concerns in relation to two vital aspects of this reform. First, ensuring that the relevant data are collected from the relevant sources in the most efficient way; and second, ensuring that the relevant data are proactively published at a meaningful level of detail.
We are urging you to raise these issues within the ongoing trilogue negotiations and ensure this reform delivers on these points.
Public statistics should match the needs of public authorities and what is in the collective interest. Public statistics are meant to produce relevant data for public authorities so they can take informed decisions.  EU statistics are produced because they are “necessary for the performance of the activities of the Union”.
Public authorities have needed data on pesticide use to assess trends across the EU since at least 1993.  In 2022, due to inadequate legislation, the available data on pesticide use still do not fulfil this basic need.
Beyond the need to analyse trends, precise and public data on pesticides use are also indispensable to enabling more realistic analysis of the exposure of agriculture workers and residents in rural areas, as well as the exposure of wildlife and ecosystems. Such data are also key to monitoring water, notably for drinking water suppliers. They are also key for many other necessary tasks that are in the public interest.
Reducing pesticide pressure on nature across Europe is not only urgent for biodiversity; it is also of great importance to millions of citizens. This matter was at the heart of the European Citizens’ Initiative “Save Bees and Farmers” which gathered 1.2 million signatures and was one of the three demands of the 2017 European Citizens’ Initiative “Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides”.
The European Commission’s strong legislative proposal to fix agriculture statistics, and the European Parliament’s many helpful amendments, rise to the challenge. In particular, the Parliament’s proposals aiming to ensure the new law meets the requirements under the European Green Deal and addresses the need for transparency are fundamental.
However, as explained in detail in ClientEarth’s briefing, the amendments proposed by the Council would hinder much needed improvements in the availability of pesticide use data. Unfortunately, in the Council’s discussions so far, the concern to minimise burdens for public administrations seems to have taken precedence over ensuring the relevant data are collected and published, as PAN Europe and Global 2000 have shown.
In view of the ongoing trilogue discussions, we reiterate that this reform needs to deliver the following to be a success and meet the public’s data needs.
 - See the European Statistics Code of Practice available in French and in English
 - Article 338(1) TFEU
 - The Fifth Environmental Action Programme defined as a target the “reduction of chemical inputs” in agriculture, specifically setting as an objective “the significant reduction in pesticides use per unit of land under production” by 2000 and foreseeing the “registration of sales and use of pesticides”.
 - See European Court of Auditors Special Report 05/2020: Sustainable use of plant protection products: limited progress in measuring and reducing risks, and Eurostat (2019) Research paper: Statistics on agricultural use of pesticides in the European Union (ESTAT E1/AES/2019/RP/1)