"Save Bees & Farmers"
Hearing in EU Parliament for “Save Bees and Farmers” ECI
1.1 million Europeans ask for an end to pesticide use
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, 26 January 2023 - On Tuesday, January 24th, the organising members of the ECI “Save Bees and Farmers” participated in a hearing in the EU Parliament. The voice of 1.1 million Europeans who signed this European Citizens Initiative was presented. To face the Biodiversity crisis, we call for an 80% reduction of synthetic pesticides by 2030 and a full phase-out by 2035. We want Biodiversity back in the agricultural landscape. We want farmers to be rewarded for working with nature. The proposal was presented by the ECI Team, and Members of Parliament asked questions and gave comments.
This hearing comes at an important moment. The Commission regulation proposal on the sustainable use of pesticides (SUR) to reduce pesticide use and risk by 50% in 2030 has met with strong opposition from the agro-industry and some MEPs. Consequently, following the demand of some Member States who initially supported the Green deal’s objectives, but are stepping in the way of their implementation, the Commission is preparing a new impact assessment analysing possible production losses and food shortages related to the Russian aggression in Ukraine.
The Pesticide reduction Regulation (SUR) and a new Nature Restoration Law are practical implementations of the EU Green Deal, the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies. The regulatory texts are discussed in the EU Council and Parliament and should lead to a final decision this year if opponents stop finding more excuses for avoiding their approval.
Helmut Burtscher-Schaden from Global2000, introduced: “If we want to preserve the world as we know it, we have to change how we deal with it: reduce food waste, eat more plants, and produce in a climate and biodiversity-friendly way. The reduction of pesticide use is a necessary prerequisite. This is why Save Bees and Farmers calls for, first, an 80% pesticide reduction by 2030 (and phase-out by 35), second, the restoration of biodiversity in agriculture, and third, the support of farmers for transformation”.
Professor Jeroen Candel who initiated a plea signed by more than 739 scientists from all over Europe for an ambitious pesticide Regulation was very clear: “There is not a single, serious scientist in the field, who would argue that the pesticides regulation would pose a risk to European food security. Quite the contrary, there is a high degree of consensus that the rapid loss of biodiversity, together with climate change, constitutes the biggest threat to the sustainability and resilience of our food system, as once more corroborated by the European Commission’s recent staff working document on the drivers of food security. It is precisely for this reason that both European citizens and scientists have high expectations of your political leadership”.
Based on her research, Professor Violette Geissen presented some facts: 124 different pesticides are found in the dust of European farmhouses, 23% of pesticide applications exceed the recommended dose. Professor Geissen said: “Pesticide residues are omnipresent in ecosystems and humans. Most of the residues are hazardous. What is the real risk of being exposed to mixtures of high numbers of pesticides? Who has the answer to this? Nobody. We need legislation that applies the precautionary principle and regulates pesticide use reduction.” Something that BeeLife and other NGO have been asking for several years.
Noa Simon, Scientific Director of BeeLife, reminded us that “It is thanks to having insect pollinators and beneficial insects in the fields that we have a potential to increase crop yields by 24%. Biodiversity is the world's immune system, and it is impossible to continue producing food in a sick environment. It is time to reduce the dependency on pesticides, to bring Nature back into the agricultural fields and accompany farmers in their transition.”
This transition can only be done with strong, competent and independent advisory services and financial support to farmers. Jean-Bernard Lozier during his presentation thanked the local advisory service which helped this conventional cereal farmer to first reduce by 50% the use of the pesticide in his farm and then by almost 80%, without putting at risk the economic viability of his farm and gaining in quality life (i.e. less workload, reconnection with the neighbourhood).
Without any surprise, some MEPs considered only as alternatives the one-pesticide-replace other-pesticide approach, while others brought the New Genomics Techniques into the debate as a tool for reducing pesticide use.
Madeleine Coste from SlowFood replied: “New Genomic Techniques, or New GMOs, are not currently banned in the EU. However, they are properly regulated, and this is the way they should remain. Current regulations ensure risk assessment, traceability and labelling. Considering how the “old” generation of GMOs was used, we have little reason to believe that they will bring any benefit in terms of reducing the use of synthetic pesticides. It is true that ”Reducing pesticide use will require a transformation of our food system, but this will bring many co-benefits for health, environment, animal welfare, and of course for the farmers themselves”.
To conclude, Martin Dermine, the main representative of the ECI working for PAN-Europe, reminded the MEP that “We need to act fast. We face a biodiversity collapse, and there can be no sustainable food production without biodiversity. A failure would delay the EU Green plans by at least 10 years, and we don’t have that time”.
The European Commission said this ECI, along with an earlier pesticide ECI Ban Glyphosate, by some of the same organisers, inspired it to propose Europe’s first legally binding pesticide cuts by 50% known as SUR. It has also tabled the Nature Restoration Law. Both proposals are now under serious threat from conservative forces and economic interests, ECI organisers warned at the hearing.
European citizens have sent a strong message to policy-makers: We want to protect bees and farmers! If we want to change the persistent decline of bees, and farmers, we cannot continue supporting the agricultural model that led to this decline. Something that the pesticides industry does not want to happen, trying their best to delay the new EU pesticide regulation with their lobby confirmed by several MEPs. European citizens hope their demands will be heard and transformed into law.
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Contacts for other speakers:
Dr Martin Dermine, PAN Europe, +32 486 32 99 92
Dr. Helmut Burtscher-Schaden, GLOBAL 2000, +43 699 14200034
Dr. Violette Geissen, Wageningen University & Research professor
Dr. Jeroen Candel, Wageningen University associate professor
Tjerk Dalhuisen, PAN Europe communications officer, +31 614699126
Madeleine Coste, SlowFood Europe, hearing speaker, +32 48354 84 12
André Prescher-Spiridon, BUND EU, hearing speaker, Andre.Prescher@bund.net
NOTE TO EDITORS:
BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination is an NGO initially formed by professionals in the beekeeping sector from different countries of the European Union. BeeLife works to protect pollinators in Europe, highlighting their value for nature and people. With over 20 members (beekeeping and farming associations) from 9 different European countries, BeeLife links policy, science and field observations to promote a more sustainable future for pollinators and their role in ecosystems.
The European Citizens Initiative was organised by Générations Futures (France), Global 2000 (Austria), Aurelia Stiftung, BUND and the Umweltinstitut München (Germany), Romapis (Romania) and the European organisations: BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination, Friends of the Earth Europe, PAN Europe, Slow Food International and the European Professional Beekeepers Association (EPBA). It was supported by over 200 organisations from all countries in the EU. Signatures with the formally required personal data were collected in all member states. Ten countries reached the minimum threshold set by the EU and combined with the total number of valid signatures this makes it an official request on the agenda of the European Commission and Parliament.