Fight for agricultural reform intensifies as Commission caves on pesticide bill

The European Commission has seemingly admitted defeat in its fight to cut the use of pesticides in farms across Europe. The bill, which aimed to cut pesticide use by 50% by the end of the decade, proved highly contentious, with farmers claiming it would impact crop production and environmentalists saying it didn’t go far enough.

The decision to abandon the proposal, which also included a ban on the use of pesticides in parks, schools and sports fields, comes in the wake of weeks of protests by farmers across Europe, during which roads and ports were blocked.

Speaking to the European Parliament earlier this week, the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the proposed plans had become a “symbol of polarisation”.

Food watchdog, Foodwatch, has hit back at the decision saying, “Citizens, policymakers and organisations have fought hard for tightened European legislation on pesticides for a long time.” They went on to say the announcement signalled a, “block to any sustainable progress.”

The reversal of these plans is still to be formally approved, however it’s unwelcome news for those in favour of stricter regulations on pesticide use. It directly follows the EU’s decision to delay rules forcing farmers to leave parts of their land fallow in order to allow the soil to recover and nutrient stores to be restored.

Why do environmentalists want to cut pesticide use in agriculture?

The EU’s plans to halve the use of pesticides by 2030 was first announced as part of the Green Deal​, which is aimed at tackling climate change. Specifically, it sought to create sustainable use of pesticides. This decision is a blow for environmentalists who have been campaigning for tighter restrictions on chemical use in agriculture for decades. It also calls into question the Commission’s dedication to the Green Deal and its ability to endure in the face of economic instability and a growing population.