Flanders initiatives against pesticides in tune with new EU targets

The European Commission has proposed a revision on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (SUD), including new rules to reduce the use and risk of pesticides in Europe. It follows the "Farm to Fork" strategy and proposes a "fair, healthy and environmentally respectful food system" at the heart of the European Green Deal.

According to a study made by the European Commission, recent figures show a continued reduction in the use and risk of chemical and hazardous pesticides in most EU Member States. In Belgium, the use and risk of chemical pesticides shows a decrease of 33% from the baseline period of 2015-2017. When it comes to the use of more hazardous pesticides, the decrease was 42% from the same baseline period.

The new rules presented now aim to create legally binding targets by 2030 to reduce by 50% the use and risk of chemical pesticides and the use of the more hazardous pesticides. The Member States will have to set their own reduction targets within clearly defined parameters as well as their own strategies to ensure that the EU wide target is achieved collectively.

"Our study showed that this provision would maximize benefits to health in the environment and I understand in Flanders at least some provisions are already in place to try to reduce pesticide use along railways, in urban areas, golf courses, etc.," said Rex Horgan, Policy Officer at European Commission DG Health during a webinar organised by the Flemish-European Liaison Agency (VLEVA) this week.

The new EU proposed rules include a ban on all pesticides in urban green areas, including public parks, gardens, playgrounds, recreation and sports grounds, public paths as well as protected areas.

In Belgium, the strategy is framed by the Belgian National Action Plan (NAPAN) and is intended to reduce the risks associated with the use of pesticides, comprising the Federal Plan for the Reduction of Plant Protection Products, plus the Brussels-Capital Region pesticide reduction programme, the Flemish Action Plan for the sustainable use of pesticides and the Walloon pesticide reduction programme. The Federal, regional and Community authorities are responsible, within their respective areas of competence, for the implementation of the NAPAN by means of a new programme every five years.

From 2018 to 2022, the NAPAN programme already comprises 172 projects, 12 of which are common to all authorities, 28 are federal and apply to the whole territory, 63 apply to the territory of the Brussels-Capital Region, 33 apply to Flanders and 36 to Wallonia.

According to Pieter Van Oost, advisor for Boerenbond, an organization for farmers in Flanders and East Belgium, the EU timing (2030) foreseen for achieving the objectives is too short.

“It has been demonstrated several times that objectives can only be achieved after 10 years,” he explained during the VLEVA webinar, presenting Boerenbond reflections over the EU proposed new rules. “The alternatives mentioned are positive (precision farming, spraying with drones) but there must be sufficient time for development," he added.



© BELGA PHOTO (JOHN THYS / AFP) European Union Ccmmissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides at the EU headquarters in Brussels on June 22, 2022

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