Despite lobbying and efforts by UK politicians, EU Pesticide legislation (EC 1107/2009) – which will affect agriculture, food production and its availability – is set to go ahead.
With the additional burden of the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (2009/127/EC) and the Water Framework Directive, BCPC warns that this will seriously impact on the industry and that a coordinated approach will be needed to address the challenges.
“We must get the message out about the negative impact that all this legislation will have on the production of good quality, nutritional food, at affordable prices – a ‘Crop Protection Crunch’,” says Dr Colin Ruscoe, chairman of BCPC. “We need to inform the whole of the food chain from producers to retailers and the general public, as well as finding ways to help food producers deal with the impact. And if we are going to make further attempts at regulatory reform, both in the UK and EU, continued lobbying of government will be crucial.”
Even before the new legislation, the number of pesticides available has been declining. Now some major groups could be lost, seriously affecting the production of many horticultural crops, potatoes, oilseed rape and cereals. “There is no ‘magic bullet’ to deal with the impact,” says Dr Ruscoe. “An integrated approach involving alternative chemistry, breeding, biological and cultural methods will be essential. GM technology would also be valuable but, even if present political restrictions were removed, realistically GM solutions are more than 15 years away.”
Research and development (R&D) approaches will need five-year, multi-pronged (chemical / breeding / biological / cultural) projects, aimed at effective pest and disease control as well as maintaining the environment and improving biodiversity. The approaches need to deliver a portfolio of tools, maturing in the short, medium and long-term. This means adopting a different approach to the present patterns of funding, which do not generally finance long-duration multidisciplinary / multi-output R&D projects.
“In 2008 BCPC convened a meeting of representatives from various stakeholder organisations across the food chain to focus action on countering the legislation, which contributed to some success in improving it, despite lack of support from most other EU countries” explains Dr Ruscoe.
At a recent follow-up meeting, key crop production organisations agreed on a coordinated approach to the challenges that will be faced with the introduction of the legislation, and to move the initiative forward, by establishing working groups to deliver on:
- A further analysis of the impact of the legislation and the resultant priorities and identify the likely actions (R&D, regulatory, knowledge transfer etc.);
- The provision of information on future activity, tailored for the range of players in the food chain and for lobbying;
- Analysing the scope for regulatory and market reform and actions to be taken;
- Identifying potential funding sources for further activities, particularly for integrated programmes which might not fit existing funding sources/policies.
The combined group will meet in June and September 2010 to report back and monitor progress.
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