MEPs agreed their first stance on the new Commission’s environmental flagship policy, the European Green Deal, aiming at halving food waste by 2030 and setting binding reduction targets for hazardous pesticides.
While not legally binding, the resolution voted in Strasbourg on Wednesday (15 January) gives a preview on which points will be disputed in the forthcoming months when it comes to the farming aspects of the Green Deal.
Amendments adopted by the plenary have not altered the joint motion for resolution on which the main political groups in the European Parliament already agreed on Tuesday afternoon.
On pesticides, the adopted text features a strong-sounding reference to tackling “pesticide dependency” and to “significantly reduce the use and risk of chemical pesticides”, although no such reduction targets were specified leaving open the issue for further discussion in the months to come.
The Greens proposed to phase out synthetic pesticides in 15 years, starting to reduce their use by 50% by 2025 with binding national contributions, while centre-right MEPs of European People’s Party insisted that any pesticide reduction targets should be subject to appropriate impact assessments. Both positions were ultimately rejected by the plenary.
At first, even the Commission had set a 50% target of pesticide reduction in a leaked presentation of the Green Deal circulating before its launch, opting then to scrap any mention to numbers in the final proposal.
Negotiations among political groups to come up with a common text also showed that the battle lawmakers will fight isn’t with numbers and targets only, but with wording too.
For instance, the choice between curbing the use or the risk of pesticides could play a major role in the overall pesticide reduction plan the EU wants to put in place.
The liberal group Renew Europe pushed for and got the inclusion of a reference to “an enforceable EU-wide food waste reduction target of 50%, based on a common methodology.”
The amount of food waste per EU citizen from agricultural production to final household consumption was estimated to be of 173 kilograms every year, which is equivalent to 170 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
An EU official told EURACTIV.com that a legislative proposal by the Commission related to the circular economy, which includes the reduction and treatment of food waste, is expected by spring.
A more generic call to curb the use of fertilisers and antibiotics was also included in the adopted text, but disappointment is mounting in the European fertilisers industry in recent days for other reasons.
In its proposed tweak to EU state-aid rules presented on Tuesday (14 January), the EU Executive reduced the number of sectors eligible for compensation to avoid the risk of relocating production outside Europe, cutting off fertilisers manufacturers.
The list relates to the cost of energy that the industry bears for the production process, but how this could affect fertiliser prices is difficult to measure at this stage.
Contacted by EURACTIV, a spokesperson from the fertilisers trade association criticised the Commission proposal saying that the EU would be punishing those industries who are leading the way.
In the resolution, the European Parliament also asked the Commission to include an ambitious legislative proposal to tackle endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in its announced zero-pollution strategy.
MEPs expect this initiative to be proposed by June 2020, paying close attention to cosmetics, toys but also food contact materials, where this hazardous class of chemicals is commonly found.
Altering the functioning of the hormonal system, these substances have a negative effect on the health of humans and animals and close to 800 chemicals are known or suspected to be capable of interfering with hormone receptors, hormone synthesis or hormone conversion, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Endocrine Society, a Washington-based organisation of scientists devoted to hormone research, hailed the call for EU policymakers to develop an ambitious legislative proposal by the beginning of summer.
“We are pleased to see the European Parliament and Commission prioritising a future where the public is protected from EDCs,” said Angel Nadal, Ph.D., Chair of the Society’s EDC Advisory Group and Professor at Miguel Hernández University in Elche, Spain.
(Edited by Benjamin Fox)