HomeProgressEliminate synthetic pesticides, the INRAE ​​study

Eliminate synthetic pesticides, the INRAE ​​study

Progressively eliminating synthetic pesticides is necessary both to protect farmers from the risks of oncological and neurodegenerative diseases (1,2), and to recover soil fertility and reduce external inputs. In addition to the advantages for the agricultural sector, there are also those for public health and ecosystems. (3)

I study 'European Pesticide-Free Agriculture in 2050' – published by INRAE, the French Institute for Research in Agriculture, Food and the Environment – ​​shows how this path can allow an appreciable growth in agricultural production, in terms of kcal, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. (4)

1) Eliminate synthetic pesticides, economic reasons

The use and abuse of synthetic pesticides can be traced back to the clever mix between the false promises of Big Food (whose logical interest is to increase the quantity and variety of products sold), the lobby to break down restrictions on employment and propaganda through the services of the large agricultural confederations.

Farmers they were thus deviated from the peasant model based on traditional agricultural practices, polycultures and varietal mixtures, to specialize crops and exaggerate yields. Only to then find, over the decades, a substantial increase in costs not compensated by the price lists. In addition to the greater risks of monocultures.

INRAE follows the previous IDDRI study (Institute for Durable Development and International Relations, 2018), which had already demonstrated how the transition towards agroecology can reverse the decline in production in European agriculture (-35% between 2010 and 2017, in kcal). (5)

2) Three possible scenarios, to 2050

The progressive elimination of synthetic pesticides requires a systemic approach that includes the recovery of polycultures and traditional agricultural practices, the use of only agrochemicals allowed in organic farming - whose negative effects on health and the environment are minimal (6) - and innovation.

The goals are to optimize the nutrient cycle and soil fertility, strengthen the plant microbiota, as well as reduce losses. Also making use of biostimulants (ie algae, microalgae and tannins), mycorrhizae, microbial compounds (7,8,9). In view, among other things, of better remuneration for farmers thanks to higher quality products. (10)

On these bases the study predicts three possible scenarios, analyzing the interactions of four factors. The value chain in agri-food supply chains, business structures, agricultural equipment (including digital technologies) and cultivation systems.

2.1) Finance in agriculture

The first scenario hypothesizes the advance of finance in agriculture, to the detriment of family and peasant agriculture which still characterizes the primary sector of the Old Continent, with 94,8% of active agricultural companies (Eurostat 2020). (11)

The production model – in this case based on crop specialization, digitalisation and automation, extensive use of inputs in agriculture – is in fact not sustainable, from an economic point of view, for small and medium-sized agricultural companies.

The reduction of pesticides it would be promoted by agro-industrial giants through robotics and digital technologies, the use of new patented GMOs. Financial and technological domination over the means of production, in view of the standardization of products on a global scale.

2.2) Peasant agriculture and biodiversity

The second scenario expresses the recovery of the values ​​of peasant agriculture, respecting agrobiodiversity. In this case, cooperation and 'open innovation' could be oriented towards strengthening the microbiome (of plants and animals) and restoring ecosystems (agricultural and natural). (12)

Customers they play a fundamental role in the survival of family farming, thanks to the choice of local foods from short supply chains. (13) Also to encourage the transition towards agroecology which FAO itself (2019) has indicated as the way forward to provide healthy foods to populations. (14)

2.3) Integrated regional systems

The third scenario expresses an evolution of the previous one which integrates the supply chains, on a regional scale, with effective coordination not only between farmers and consumers but also with territorial and European policies, under the aegis of the 'One Health' principle.

The objective of this evolution is to ensure constant access to a wide range of healthy foods in all European regions. Cultivation systems are based on biological regulations and limited external inputs, promoting biodiversity and regulating parasites.

3) Politics against

The EU strategyFarm to Fork' it could have allowed the evolution from the first to the second and third scenarios, through a reform of the common agricultural policy based on the ecological transition with direct aid linked to environmental and social conditionality. As well as through incentives for conversion to organic farming and the redistribution of aid in favor of family and peasant farms.

The lobby of the large agricultural confederations (ie Coldiretti, Copa-Cogeca, Farm Europe) has, however, nullified these reform prospects to instead favor the development of the first scenario identified by INRAE, to the exclusive advantage of the agro-industrial oligarchies. The European Parliament and the Council, with the support of the Commission, as has already been reported, have in fact:

– nullified the CAP reform 2021 (2023)-2027

– rejected the 'Nature Restoration Law' and the 'Sustainable Use (of pesticides) Regulation'

– eliminated the 'Good Agronomic and Environmental Conditions' Basic

– carried forward the deregulation of new GMOs.

4) Farmers, consumers, citizens

ECVC extension – the European Coordination of La Via Campesina, the only true representation of small and medium-sized agricultural companies – has been fighting for years against European policies subservient to agricultural finance.

Farmers' priorities for three months in protest in the various countries of the Old Continent, they converge on the dignity of income, thus the fair price of products and the ban on sales below cost, but also on direct support for agroecology. (15)

Citizens and consumers, in turn, associate the 'sustainability' of food with 'nutrition and health,absence or minimal use of pesticides,(economic) accessibility for all,local and short supply chains'. (16) Only politics is missing from this shared appeal.

#PeaceLandDignity, Our program. The Via Campesina, Foodwatch International, our lighthouses.

Dario Dongo


(1) Dario Dongo. How the agrochemical industry hides the toxicity of pesticides. New studies. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.6.23

(2) Dario Dongo. Pesticides, herbicides and Parkinson's disease. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 10.3.24

(3) Dario Dongo. The advantages of organic agriculture, scientific review by FiBL. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.1.24

(4) Mora, O., Berne, J., Drouet, J., Mouël, C. L., Meunier, C., Forslund, A., Kieffer, V., & Paresys, L. (2023). European Chemical Pesticide-Free Agriculture in 2050. Foresight Report. INRAE https://doi.org/10.17180/ca9n-2p17

(5) Dario Dongo, Sabrina Bergamini. 10 years of agroecology to save Europe, the IDDRI study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 25.3.19

(6) Marta Strinati. Pesticides used in conventional and bio. Comparison of toxicity. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 16.3.23

(7) Donato Ferrucci, Dario Dongo. Nutrition of soils and crops, the integrated action plan in the EU. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 10.7.22

(8) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Biostimulants in olive growing, the organic revolution. Scientific review. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 14.5.21

(9) Gabriele Sapienza. Biopreparations based on microorganisms, regulation and benefits. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 4.10.23

(10) Dario Dongo, Giulia Torre. Organic farming. Resilience and food security, fair remuneration. The Swedish study. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 3.3.21

(11) Dario Dongo. The tentacles of finance on food sovereignty and our food. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 31.3.24

(12) Gabriele Sapienza, Dario Dongo. Microbial biodiversity of soils in Europe, analyzes and perspectives. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 6.11.23

(13) Dario Dongo. Short supply chain, concepts and values. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 27.9.19

(14) Dario Dongo, Camilla Fincardi. Agroecology, SDGs, salvation. The FAO Decalogue. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.4.20

(15) Dario Dongo. Farmers in protest, more manure in Brussels. Revolution! GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 27.3.24

(16) Special Eurobarometer survey 505, Making our food fit for the future – Citizens' expectations. Brussels. https://doi.org/10.2875/826903

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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