EU Plan to Cut Pesticides 50% by 2030

The EU Plan to Cut Pesticides by 50% by 2030. We all benefit, even the farmers.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The EU Plan to Cut Pesticides by 50% by 2030. We all benefit, even the farmers. Image: Pexels

Reading Time: 4 minutes

EU Plan to Cut Pesticides 50% by 2030

In June 2022, the EU Plan to Cut Pesticides was created to cut the use of pesticides in EU countries 50% by 2030. The plan calls for a complete ban on pesticide use in public and ecologically sensitive areas, an overall reduction in consumption, and training farmers and landscape workers to transition to other ways of pest management.

Why are Pesticides Bad?

Pesticides are poisons designed to kill naturally occurring, so-called pests in an area where agriculture is practised or a manicured landscape is desired. While some modern pesticides are specific to an organism, most are toxic to far more than just the pests they are intended for and can kill many other organisms. Exposure to pesticides can cause negative health effects on the people who apply them or on people or animals that enter the areas where they are being applied. In some cases, even being in a neighbouring area to active pesticide application can cause a health risk. Pesticides are linked to various severe illnesses and diseases, such as cancer and respiratory problems. The people paid to apply them are often poorly trained and lack essential safety equipment, especially in countries where worker protection and environmental laws are lacking.

The trouble doesn’t stop at property lines; even when legally and responsibly applied, pesticides can run off as compounds dissolved in rainwater and attached to silt. Runoff can pollute streams and rivers, ponds, lakes, and wells. Residues in surface water can harm plants and animals and contaminate groundwater.

Many farmers and other landscape maintenance crews have never lived in a world without pesticides and, as such, are heavily reliant upon their use. According to the Pesticide Atlas, pesticides have increased by 80% since 1990. Their use is estimated to directly cause 11,000 human deaths and the poisoning of 385 million people yearly. Pesticide use is a significant part of the biodiversity collapse and is said to have caused a 30% reduction in bird and butterfly populations. But there is hope.

See also: EU Pairs Taxes with Climate Policy.

The EU Plan to Cut Pesticides 50% by 2030

People want change. Increased awareness of biodiversity collapse and the negative health effect on humans has led a strong non-partisan support for the legislation. The pesticide reduction plan is a part of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy. The food resiliency plan is at the heart of the European Green Deal. It aims to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally friendly while maintaining supply during global supply chain interruptions. Two-thirds of people polled in Germany felt the issue was a high priority. They are aware of the issues at hand and understand the dangers. 80 percent expressed willingness to support a signature campaign calling for the gradual elimination of pesticides while aiding farmers in converting their businesses. There was virtually no difference between rural versus urban, both groups supported the proposed laws.

EU member countries will set and implement their own reduction targets, in line with broader parameters set by the EU Plan to Cut Pesticides to ensure the 50% goal is achieved. These measures will be legally binding and, therefore, not subject to change depending on the whims of successive governments.

Nature-Based Pest Solutions

In addition, new measures to replace pesticides with other forms of effective pest control will be introduced. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is one method. It brings science-based techniques to manage the creatures with the goal of using chemicals as the last resort. With IPM, setting population thresholds for pests before any action is taken to control them can limit the chemicals used. Identifying certain organisms to know precisely how to respond in a less invasive manner, possibly using the pest’s natural cycles to the farmer’s advantage. Crop rotations reduce the ability of a pest to get deeply established, making overall control less invasive. Selecting pest-resistant plants and winter cover crops can also help reduce the need for chemical pesticides. In the most extreme of circumstances, animal predators of the pest, trapping, or highly targeted application of modern, less toxic chemicals may be used, but never the broadcast use of old-school aerosol chemicals. 

Training and Transition

The EU plan to cut pesticides will require training programs for farmers and other people who would normally be the ones working with the chemicals, and of course, the transition will cost money. The EU has a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) program to fund the transition for the first five years. Because the price of the chemicals used has increased so much in recent years, the farmers are already spending disproportionate amounts of their operating budgets on them. Those who use them are becoming beholden to chemical companies, taking loans to keep going.

There is hope here, too; even with some crop loss from a pesticide use reduction, the cost reduction will offset the value of any crop loss increases and may even result in higher profitability. If we want smaller family-owned farms to be the ones producing our food, we need to ensure they are financially healthy and viable for the future. Will five years be enough to fund the transition? It is likely that the costs to support farmers will be greatest at the beginning of the transition and will decline as they gain knowledge and see the benefits of new techniques. There will no doubt be some pushback on the EU plan to cut pesticides – from the pesticide industry, and the cost to the CAP will certainly be one of the levers their lobbyists will use to sway public opinion.

On the other hand, the EU plan to cut pesticides will also spawn new growth in a nascent clean food industry. Training and education, production of alternate types of less-toxic chemicals, and adjacent businesses will begin to thrive and grow in response to the demand increase. Many of these are already being used by the organic food industry with excellent results. There is no reason that the lessons learned from organic farm food production could not be applied on a much larger scale to all types of food production if only to reduce the cost of production. Organic or not, these practices may be applied to any farm – if they are effective and result in healthier food for the same or less cost, what farmer would say no? 

The organic farming industry’s knowledge could also be applied to the landscaping and grounds maintenance industries. Why spray toxic chemicals when a nature-based solution may be as simple as changing the types of plants that are installed? In many cases, native plants require less water and maintenance as they have evolved to be in that region. 

With any luck, in our lifetimes, all our food will be grown organically, and urban green spaces will be free of pesticides and safe for our families. With the EU plan to cut pesticides, a chemical-free environment will be the expectation instead of the exception. There will come a day when society looks back with amazement at the time before this law was enacted and wonder why we ever did things the way we did. 

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