Scotland’s farmers are coming to terms with controversial new European legislation, which may prevent them from protecting their crops with certain products, which are perfectly safe if used correctly.
This is likely to damage the nation’s farming industry and put food prices up as domestic yields fall and alternative supplies have to be imported from outside the EU.
Scotland’s farming union is relieved that it has been able to water down earlier unworkable and excessive proposals through intense lobbying, but is concerned that the majority of MEPs have voted in favour of legislation whose scientific basis is fundamentally flawed.
An adopted report by German Green MEP, Hiltrud Breyer, will remove plant protection products from the marketplace or nominate for substitution, purely on the basis of the properties they present in the laboratory, taking no account of the minimised risk they present if used correctly. A further report by German Conservative MEP, Christa Klass on the sustainable use of pesticides, which was also adopted today, is less controversial.
East Fife cereals grower and chairman of NFU Scotland’s Cereals Committee, John Picken, who is in Strasbourg to watch the vote, says:
“There is real concern among farmers and growers across the EU that this legislation gambles with the EU’s capacity to produce its own food in the name of a completely flawed agenda to prevent us from using pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and insecticides, regardless of whether these substances are actually harmful or not.
“My colleagues and I have been pleading with MEPs and Commission officials for many months to try to inject some reason into the proposals. As someone who uses these products and whose food ultimately ends up on Scottish dinner plates, I simply could not carry on doing so if I felt they were dangerous to other peoples’ health or, indeed, my own. I understand that the notion of restricting pesticides sounds good, but it is too simplistic and takes no account of the fact that they are already rigorously controlled.
“Put simply, this is bad legislation and will further undermine people’s confidence in the EU’s ability to come up with constructive and sensible regulation.”
NFU Scotland’s President, Jim McLaren, says:
“It is completely ridiculous that if Scottish production falls and food has to be imported from outwith the EU to make up for it, we have no control over what has been used to treat it.
“We are grateful for some concessions, which were agreed by the European Commission and Council in conjunction with the Parliament ahead of today’s vote, and for which we have fought very hard. Despite our fears about the results, the package is better than it could have been, which is an odd victory, but at least we can honestly say that we did our best to secure a more feasible outcome for Scottish farmers and consumers.
“For example, we successfully defended a derogation clause which means that if there is a serious risk to plant health, a case can be put forward to use some plant protection products and that these can be renewed as required. We also argued for a very useful proposal to be reinstated, which will allow new products licensed in one EU Member State to be automatically adopted in neighbouring countries in a ‘zonal system’. Somewhat ironically, this will be even more necessary as perfectly safe and essential pesticides have to be replaced by a new product with some urgency.”
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