Pesticides: Ursula von der Leyen proposes withdrawing a text aimed at halving their use

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, proposed on Tuesday, February 6, the withdrawal of a legislative project aimed at halving the use of pesticides in the European Union, blocked by MEPs and castigated in recent agricultural events

Pesticides: Ursula von der Leyen proposes withdrawing a text aimed at halving their use

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, proposed on Tuesday, February 6, the withdrawal of a legislative project aimed at halving the use of pesticides in the European Union, blocked by MEPs and castigated in recent agricultural events. A central element of the “Green Deal”, the legislative project on pesticides proposed in June 2022 by Brussels planned to halve the use and risks at EU level of chemical phytosanitary products by 2030, compared to the period 2015-2017.

The proposal “has become a symbol of polarization,” lamented Ursula von der Leyen in Strasbourg, while angry farmers have been denouncing for weeks European ecological standards deemed excessive. “It was rejected by Parliament, there is no more progress in the Council either. This is why I will propose to the college [of commissioners] to withdraw this proposal,” she declared to MEPs.

“The subject remains topical” but “to move forward, more dialogue and a different approach are necessary. The Commission could make a new, much more mature proposal, with stakeholder participation,” von der Leyen said, without giving a date. “Farmers need economic reasons to take nature protection measures, perhaps we have not presented these reasons convincingly to them,” she regretted.

Multiply the pledges

But the European Parliament rejected the proposal at the end of November, after amendments from elected representatives of the European People's Party (EPP) largely emptying it of its substance to avoid "unrealistic" constraints on the agricultural world. An extremely rare rejection which contributed to de facto burying it a few months before the European elections of June 2024 while the EU “Green Deal” appears as a scarecrow.

Theoretically, the ministers of agriculture could continue to debate the text, but in practice the negotiations between the Twenty-Seven are permanently bogged down, with several States expressing alarm at the impact on yields and production.

Faced with the agricultural crisis, the European executive is striving to multiply pledges: last week it proposed granting a partial exemption from fallow obligations and limiting Ukrainian agricultural imports, after having already given up last year to propose a text on nutritional labeling (Nutriscore type). Ursula von der Leyen once again ensured, on Tuesday, that she was aware of the agricultural malaise: faced with the effects of climate change and the war in Ukraine, “many farmers feel cornered (..) They deserve to be listened to” .

“They also know that agriculture must move towards a more sustainable production model, we want to ensure that they remain in control of the process,” she underlined, recalling having launched a “dialogue in January strategic” with the sector on future prospects. “We need to go beyond a polarized debate, build trust (…) We must avoid blaming each other, and seek solutions to problems together,” she argued.