Any potential reduction of glyphosate in the EU should be preceded by an impact assessment exploring the consequence for farmers, EU lawmakers said during a recent debate organised by EURACTIV.
“There is really a need for an impact assessment for each of the legislative proposal,” German Christian-democrat Norbet Lins said, adding that an impact assessment on how a reduction in the use of glyphosate will affect farms and farmers will be needed.
Glyphosate is one of the most widely used active substances in European agriculture and is the world’s most commonly used herbicide. It is currently approved in the EU but this approval expires on 15 December 2022.
On 12 December 2019, a group of companies seeking the renewal of glyphosate’s approval in the EU launched an application for its renewal post-2022, thus formally initiating the renewal process in the EU.
However, the renewal of glyphosate is highly contested, and debate is already well underway as to whether the substance should be re-authorised.
Spanish conservative MEP Hermann Tertsch (ECR) highlighted the lack of impact assessment on Spanish farmers, who are “struggling”, according to him, to adequately assess what is expected from them and how they can work in a viable way in the future.
“They don’t want to be with this kind of threat, a Damocles sword on them, because they are convinced that they need the glyphosate,” he added.
Tertsch welcomed the development of alternatives and the reduction of pesticide use, but this must be realistic, otherwise, it could be a “social catastrophe”.
“In this sense, we need a real assessment, a harm assessment, if this reduction is trying to be imposed in an unrealistic way, which is the way we see it now.”
Greens Finnish MEP Ville Niinistö concurred, emphasising that both an implementation plan and an impact assessment measurement would be needed, adding that he is very much in favour of supporting European farmers in this transition and making sure that they are a part of the discussion.
He highlighted that social support for farmers will be crucial in this, as well as an in-depth look into how we can create other ways of increasing productivity.
“As we are moving into new territory, we also have to think about the new solutions that can be taken into use to limit the use of pesticides,” he said, adding that the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform has a role to play in ensuring that farmers get adequately remunerated for this.
Géraldine Kutas, director general at the European crop protection association (ECPA), also offered her support for an assessment, telling EURACTIV that “impact assessments are important to know what will be the impact on food production, yields and farmers’ income for pesticide reduction targets […] innovation takes time and is a long journey”.
Impact assessments ‘forget’ health, environment
However, the idea of an impact assessment has not been favourably received from all quarters, especially from environmentalist NGOs, which oppose the re-authorisation of glyphosate in principle.
Hans Muilerman, the chemicals coordinator for pesticides and alternatives at the Pesticide Action Network EU, told EURACTIV that they are not in favour of an impact assessment.
“It is the traditional answer of those who object to a proposal to delay it and frustrate it,” he said, adding that impact assessments “generally assess the economic impacts for farmers and industry while the impacts for health and the environment are forgotten”.
“An impact assessment is very political and not the best way to instruct farmers about alternatives. Farmers know very well what the alternatives are, such as mechanical weeding, and farmers prefer to choose for the easy way, which is spraying,” he said.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos]