HomeIdeaRegulation on the sustainable use of pesticides, SUR. The travails of EU reform

Regulation on the sustainable use of pesticides, SUR. The travails of EU reform

The proposal to reform the regulation on pesticides, (Sustainable Use of pesticides Regulation, SUR), presented by the European Commission on 22.06.22, has been attacked by several quarters and its implementation risks being postponed to a date following the new European elections foreseen in 2024.

The Regulation on the sustainable use of pesticides (SUR)

the 22.6.22 the European Commission, after years of attempts, had managed to present a proposal to modify the so-called Pesticides Regulation. The regulation on the sustainable use of plant protection products (SUR) has the ambition of halving the use of pesticides in agriculture by 2030 (for Italy the reduction would be 62%) and banning their use by the same date in sensitive areas. (1)

Aims contained in the large project of the Green Deal European Union and in line with the commitments undertaken in the strategy Farm to Fork e Biodiversity Strategy. Also within the COP15 in Montreal on biodiversity, the reduction of the use of pesticides was a central theme for the conservation of pollinating insects. Regulation also strongly desired by the European Citizens' Initiative Save the Bees and Farmers which brings together 1,1 million citizens from all European countries.

Why reduce pesticides?

Il report Legambiente annual "Stop pesticides on your plate", in the latest edition just published, explains how the samples in which traces of pesticides have been found have increased (44.1% of the samples). Only 54,8% of the samples analyzed were found to be free of pesticides, up from 63% last year. Most of these are used in fruit, which has residues in 70,3% of the cases analysed. (2)

Pesticides they pollute soil and water making the land less fertile; they are linked to the sharp decline of insects, above all of the precious pollinators, but also to the danger of extinction of birds and plants. In addition to being harmful to humans. Even if we know the dangers and consequences of many of these, the European Union teacher to allow its use in derogation.

A new impact assessment to stall the proposal

Sin that the legislative process of the SUR regulation was interrupted by the umpteenth impact assessment requested on 22 September by Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia on the pretext that the evaluation on which rests the proposal does not take into account the impact of the war in Ukraine on food security. (3)

As highlighted by Matthias Wolfschmidt, whenever new rules are proposed that want to change it status quo, the agricultural industry plays the "hunger card". Also in this case, it seems that Europe, which boasts one of the most efficient agricultural systems in the world and the leading exporter of food products, cannot meet the needs of its citizens without fertilizers and cereals from Russia and Ukraine.

From the secret report from Global 2000, an Austrian environmental association, it turns out that the countries that support the new assessment on 16 November have become the majority. (4) Italy is also added to the previous ones, together with Finland, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Portugal. The new impact assessment was therefore deemed necessary by the Energy Council of 19 December and now it is up to the Commission to express itself within 6 months. (5)

The actions of civil society and environmentalists

Save the Bees and Farmers had forwarded an open letter (5) to the ministers of the environment, climate and energy to request that the impact assessment be withdrawn from the agenda, concerned about the consequences of undue delays on the adoption of the SUR. In a second letter, signed by more than 600 scientists, it is underlined that the reduction of pesticides is a fundamental step to halt and reverse the decline of biodiversity. (6)

Josef Settele, co-president of the World Biodiversity Council and signatory of the open letter, spoke at the press conference organized by IFOAM Organics Europe on 6 December. He stated that 'Political efforts to abandon the sustainability goals of the European Green Deal, including reducing the use of pesticides and restoring biodiversity, do not protect us from the current food crisis, but they lead to worsening and make the crisis permanent. Global warming and biodiversity loss are already affecting crops and livelihoods around the world'. (7)

The president of IFOAM Organics Europe Jan Plagge, on the other hand, underlined how already more than 300 farmers in Europe are adopting the organic method or practicing agroecology, obtaining healthy food of excellent quality and in sufficient quantity. (7) And Italy can be an example, with 17,2% of farms choosing the organic method against a European average of 9%.

Choose the organic method it means meeting the ever-increasing demand for healthy, chemical-free foods. It also represents a reduction in costs on the part of farmers, as Ramona Duminicioiu of the Eco Ruralis association points out, given the high prices of pesticides following the war in Ukraine. In addition to being the safest choice for the health of farmers and those living in rural areas. (7)

Despite the sudden stop that the proposal for a regulation on the reduction of the use of pesticides has suffered, (8) the good news is that negotiations on the subject continue for the points not touched by the evaluation. And the battles of civil society will not stop either.

Alessandra Mei


(1) The proposed Regulation for the sustainable use of plant protection products (SUR) https://food.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2022-06/pesticides_sud_eval_2022_reg_2022-305_en.pdf

(2) Legambiente, Stop pesticides. Analysis of pesticide residues in food and good agricultural practices, 2022. https://www.legambiente.it/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Stop-pesticidi-2022.pdf?_gl=1*fe2kna*_up*MQ..*_ga*MTYzODcxNTQxMC4xNjcxNzIwOTIy*_ga_LX7CNT6SDN*MTY3MTcyMDkxOS4xLjAuMTY3MTcyMDkxOS4wLjAuMA..

(3) Request for impact assessment https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-12601-2022-INIT/x/pdf

(4) IFOAM Organics Europes, Bold pesticide reduction plan faces attack on Saturday, 06.12.2022, https://www.organicseurope.bio/news/bold-pesticide-reduction-plan-faces-attack-on-saturday/

For the full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9grCv7dY_Kg&t=1s&ab_channel=OrganicsEurope

(5) Acceptance of the impact assessment by the Council https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2022/12/19/council-calls-for-a-complementary-impact -assessment-on-the-sustainable-use-of-plant-protection-products-proposal/

(6) Save the Bees and Farmers open letter https://www.organicseurope.bio/content/uploads/2022/12/Open-Letter-ECI-to-Council.pdf?dd

(7) Open letter signed by scientists: https://zenodo.org/record/7446449#.Y6RyRnbMK01

(8) On the long and troubled process of this reform, see Martha Portocarrero. Timeline of the EU Sustainable use of pesticides regulation. Investigate Europe. 24.6.22 https://www.investigate-europe.eu/en/2022/timeline-of-eus-sustainable-use-of-pesticides-regulation/

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Graduated in Law from the University of Bologna, she attended the Master in Food Law at the same University. You participate in the WIISE srl benefit team by dedicating yourself to European and international research and innovation projects.

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