Jean Charles Bocquet has been the Director General of ECPA -the Brussels-based trade association representing the manufacturers of agrochemicals in Europe- between 2013 and 2017.

The reality is th" /> Jean Charles Bocquet has been the Director General of ECPA -the Brussels-based trade association representing the manufacturers of agrochemicals in Europe- between 2013 and 2017.

The reality is th" />
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20 November, 2017 Feature Articles

Pesticides: Future Challenges and How to Manage the Issue to Avoid Negative Impact on Trade

Pesticides: Future Challenges and How to Manage the Issue to Avoid Negative Impact on Trade


Sustainable food production is a massive global challenge and the pesticide sector makes a significant contribution to achieving this. However, the innovative process of supplying farmers with tools is affected by current European legislation.


Jean Charles Bocquet has been the Director General of ECPA -the Brussels-based trade association representing the manufacturers of agrochemicals in Europe- between 2013 and 2017.

The reality is that decisions made today in Brussels can have an immediate and significant impact on our food supply and will undoubtedly affect the ability of future generations to access safe, sustainable and affordable food. Such decisions influence what we eat, how we eat, and the cost of our food.
 
This is a crucial moment for the future of agriculture in the EU. The standards they are setting now will have immediate and long-term implications for European trade.
 
The current regulations 1107/2009 and 396/2005, which determine the authorization of products on the market as well as the Maximum Residue Levels for trade, have had a huge impact on the agri-food chain. This is especially visible when looking at the innovation process of bringing a new solution to the market. Currently it takes more than 11 years to bring a product to the market and requires more than €200 million of investment to give growers enough tools to effectively combat pests, weeds and diseases, which evolve much quicker than that and whose resistance to existing solutions evolve even quicker. However, the regulatory proceeding currently hinders the innovation process because of the delays in approvals and the lack of harmonization through the zonal system.
 
One need only look at the recent example of glyphosate, where regulatory authorities around the world, the EFSA, EPA and 90,000 pages of evidence confirmed it should be reapproved, yet member states could not agree, or the current discussion on endocrine disruptors, where the Commission has chosen the policy option that places the highest burden and impact on agricultural production, without any increase in protection for health and the environment over the other less burdensome options available to it.
 
Impact on trade
Indeed, the latter regulatory issue criteria for endocrine disruption that have been published recently by the European Commission could potentially have a huge impact on trade. In the Kyd Brenner report on ‘Potential trade effects on selected agricultural exporters to EU under regulation 1107/2009 (Hazard Based Cut offs)’ we learn that Mexican and Brazilian coffee, American almonds and Indian rice may have a harder time making their way into the EU market. That is if the proposal on endocrine disrupting chemicals from the Commission goes through in its current form. The report warns that, calculated over a three-year period, some €14 billion of EU imports are at risk.
 
This analysis extended to the entire range of potentially affected commodities imported by the EU. It is expected that the measures could have a potential impact on trade of around €65 billion.
As an industry we strongly believe that only with a policy that is science-based and designed to manage risk, rather than hazard, can we create an EU regulatory environment that fosters innovation and encourages competitiveness, yet current legislation is going in the opposite direction.
 
 
Reality gap
It seems, however, that some of the regulatory problems that we are facing are rooted in the high disconnect of society to the problems of farming. A YouGov study (April 2016) showed that only 4% of adults surveyed in Europe (UK, Germany, Spain, Poland) correctly estimated that world food production should increase by 60% by 2050 to meet the demand of the growing population. The 60% figure is according to the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. When asked to identify the figure by which world food production must increase, 61% of respondents underestimated the amount.
 
Furthermore, respondents misjudged the role that pesticides play in supplying affordable food to consumers. In fact, only 31% of adults surveyed thought that farmers’ inability to protect their crops against diseases and crop infestation was a factor directly linked to the cost of the world’s food supply. But 91% agreed that their access to healthy, fresh food was linked to price.
 
There is an obvious disconnect. If farmers cannot protect their crops, cost will inevitably increase. Consumers can’t have it both ways. Pesticides help farmers provide safe and affordable food.
 
But in the background today there is the story of French farmers facing drops of up to 75% in their wheat yield this year (challenging conditions for wine growers) but all the while the French government is taking positions nationally and in Brussels which limit farmers’ access to the tools they need, such as dimethoate to fight the suzukii fly, which has decimated cherry production this year, and sending the cost up nearly 20%.
 
This is just France - you need only look at a report[1] which highlighted the precarious position our food production system potentially finds itself in, concluding that farmers could lose up to 85% of their crops if certain pesticides were taken off the market. There is a real danger that politicians could be sleepwalking into a food production crisis, with significant consequences for the environment, trade, production and the economy, impacting on every one of us, from the farmer to the consumer.
 
Let's work together 
We listen and learn from stakeholders and the public, and engage in dialogue on key topics to better understand the interests, views and perspectives of others working towards sustainable agricultural productivity.
 
We need to enable our farmers to produce more food, and to empower them to feed more people with increased efficiency, using less land and fewer natural resources. The crop protection industry is significantly engaged in training and stewardship projects with farmers to promote and implement good management practices during the use phase of the products. Politicians, industry and society need to work together to develop integrated and sustainable solutions. To succeed, farmers will need access to all the available technology.
 
We firmly believe that we need to do more to tell the story of the benefits our industry brings to society - and we are trying to do this with our #WithOrWithout campaign - but this is a story that keeps being lost in the current environment. This is a critical moment for European agriculture and we should not sleepwalk into a crisis.

[1] “Cumulative impact of hazard-based legislation on crop protection products in Europe” Steward Redqueen, 2016 http://www.stewardredqueen.com/uploads/nieuws/cumulative_impact_of_hazard_based_legislation_on_crop_protection_products_in_europe.pdf
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