Though new regulations to reduce pesticide use among EU farmers by 50 percent may not impact importers directly, understanding these laws is critical.
As one of the pillars of the European Union’s pesticide policy, the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (SUD) was adopted in 2009 to reduce the risks to human health and the environment that are associated with pesticide use. After an evaluation however, the European Commission identified multiple problems with the SUD’s implementation, enforcement, and application in Member States.
To address these issues, in June 2022, the European Commission proposed stricter rules that took the form of a Regulation to harmonize national pesticide use policies and to reduce trade distortions between Member States. The proposed Regulation is an important step toward implementing the objectives set out in the 2020 Farm to Fork strategy and has been submitted to the various legislative bodies of the European Union.
While the changes proposed are not directly applicable to exporters to the EU, further restriction of pesticide use in the EU will likely result in additional pesticide MRL reductions, which will affect exports. The policy may also be considered in future EU regulations on health and environmental standards that may apply to imported products.
The proposed Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation (SUR) turns the EU reduction targets as announced in the Farm to Fork strategy into a legally-binding target in all EU Member States, without the need to enact it through national laws. According to the proposal “this Regulation lays down rules for the sustainable use of plant protection products by providing for the setting, and achievement by 2030, of reduction targets for the use and risk of chemical plant protection products, establishing requirements for use, storage, sale and disposal of plant protection products and for application equipment, providing for training and awareness raising, and providing for implementation of integrated pest management.”
There are four overall objectives: 1) reduce the use and risk of pesticides, increase the adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) and the use of less hazardous and non-chemical alternatives to pesticides; 2) improve monitoring data; 3) promote the adoption of new technologies, such as precision farming; and 4) improve the implementation, application, and enforcement of legal provisions across all Member States.
The two proposed reduction targets to be achieved by 2030 are:
Target 1: 50% Union-wide reduction of both the use and risk of chemical pesticides; and
Target 2: 50% Union-wide reduction in the use of more hazardous pesticides.
According to the Regulation proposal, Member States would have some flexibility in setting their own binding national reduction targets within set parameters, taking into consideration progress in pesticide use reduction prior to the baseline period. Another proposal is the ban of all pesticide use in sensitive areas.
The baseline period for the reduction calculation toward the Union 2030 targets is 2015–2017. The European Commission recognizes the lack of robust statistical data to track progress, so the baseline will use the quantity of active substances in plant protection products placed on the market and the number of emergency authorizations granted.
Further restriction of pesticide use in the EU will likely result in additional pesticide MRL reductions.
Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Parliament voted in support of the Farm to Fork strategy. However, in March 2022 the European Parliament passed a resolution urging that a new impact assessment take into account the new food security challenges in the region. Similarly, in December 2022, the Council of the European Union also requested the European Commission to provide a complementary study to the existing impact assessment to inform its decision-making process and final vote. Adoption of the proposed Sustainable Use Regulation may be delayed due to these information requests.
There are many other proposed changes that are relevant for EU growers, including the prohibition of aerial applications and financial assistance, that are not included in this brief overview. More information, including Fact Sheets and a FAQ, is available here.