EU Conservation Zone Pesticide Ban to Start Next Year

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By Stephen Gardner

European Union farmers who receive subsidies from the bloc will not be allowed to use pesticides in certain conservation zones starting next year, after an attempt in the European Parliament to defeat the proposal narrowly failed June 14.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, proposed in February modifications to EU rules on farm payments, including that the spraying of pesticides should be banned on fallow land, land abutting woodland and other zones designated “ecological focus areas.”

To qualify for certain subsidies, EU farmers are required to designate 5 percent of their arable land as ecological focus areas.

A group of European Parliament lawmakers sought to block the spraying restriction, saying it would undermine the production of crops that are allowed to be cultivated in ecological focus areas. The lawmakers also said the commission was exceeding its powers by proposing the pesticide ban in a delegated act, or an EU law that the commission can adopt if there is no objection from the European Parliament or EU countries, and which cannot be amended by the parliament.

However, the lawmakers’ objection fell short, garnering 363 votes. To be sustained, the objection would have required an absolute majority in the European Parliament, which is 376 votes.

‘Small But Welcome Victory’

Amanda Cheesley, a spokeswoman for the main EU farmers’ lobbying organization, Copa & Cogeca, told Bloomberg BNA June 14 that the rule on pesticides would undermine agricultural production and would make it more complicated for farmers to meet EU farm subsidy obligations.

But Henriette Christensen, senior policy adviser with the Pesticides Action Network Europe, said the pesticides limitation was “a small but welcome victory for common sense, biodiversity and the wider environment.”

The European Commission can now adopt the delegated act. The ban on use of pesticides in certain ecological focus areas will apply beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Gardner in Brussels at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com

For More Information

The proposed EU delegated act including the pesticide restriction is available at http://bit.ly/2rvIrcV.

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