At first glance the subject of this report might seem to concern just one specific technical aspect of EU agriculture. In fact, the predominant approach to crop protection in the EU involving the use of Plant Protection Products (henceforth PPPs), is an integral part of the whole ethos of the predominant current system of production. Pesticides, as they are called in the public discourse, have become a totemic issue in the debate about the correct farming system for the challenges faced this century.
But, important as crop protection is, it makes no sense to focus narrowly and solely on the specific list of chemicals permitted as PPPs. It is necessary to confront much wider changes in farming systems, including food consumption behaviour. Agricultural system change, in turn, is part of a much wider transition in society necessitated by the major challenges of the 21st Century.
This report is concerned with crop protection in the European Union. However, because the EU is a significant international trader in agricultural products and EU regulations have influence on policy in other parts of the world, reference will be made to the global dimension of EU choices.
The report sets out to better understand the issues surrounding the way agricultural crops are protected in the EU. EU agriculture relies heavily on the use of synthetic chemical plant protection products to combat pests and diseases. Whilst EU regulation aims to encourage the uptake of non-synthetic crop protection methods to reduce harm to human health and the environment, the strategy is not working. Available data show no significant overall change in the use and associated risks of plant protection products during the last decade. A transition in the way crops are protected in the EU is needed.
The report proposes one which aims to re-establish ecosystem functions on agricultural land to provide nature-based solutions for pest, disease and weed threats, and to utilise all means to enable a substantial fall in the harms caused to health and environment by use of PPPs. This transition cannot be disassociated from the wider food system and land use changes which will have to embrace food consumption and waste, food pricing which internalises the true cost of production, and welfare and trade policy. The report spells out some of the policy changes and key actions to bring about the required transition.
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Two events were organised during the course of the project:
PreFFA event – April 2019
An initial stakeholder debate was held in Brussels in April 2019, as part of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture 2019.
Launch event -May 2020
On May 19th 2020 we held a webinar to present the report with our Chairman Janez Potocnik as a host and interventions from Allan Buckwell and Sir Charles Godfray. You can watch the recording of the online event below:
As a public utility foundation, it is crucial that RISE remains independent, impartial and science-led in all of its work. The team, supported by the Board, works hard to ensure that the Foundation’s work retains this unbiased balanced perspective in what are often highly debated issues.
This process is supported by an independent Advisory Committee that provides guidance on the research questions, the direction of the report, ensures the report is science-driven and has no bias, and highlights crucial papers or evidence.
For the report on the ‘Future of Crop Protection in Europe’, the Advisory Committee members are:
Professor Tim BENTON, Research Director – Emerging Risks. The Royal Institute of International Affairs Chatham House and Professor University of Leeds;
Emile FRISON, Expert member of the Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems IPES-Food;
Michael HAMELL, Adjunct Professor of Agriculture, University College Dublin;
Professor Per KUDSK, Head of Section of the Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University;
Professor Erik MATHIJS, Director of SFERE (Sustainable Food Economies Research Group) and Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, KU Leuven;
Professor Pieter SPANOGHE, Head of the Research Group on Crop Protection Chemistry. Department of Plants and Crops – Ghent University.
In addition to the Advisory Committee, RISE asks a range of stakeholders – environmental and health NGOs, industry, farmers and policy-makers – to independently comment on its work.
This project has received financial support from the European Landowners’ Organization, The Friends of the Countryside, The European Crop Protection Association, John Deere, CropLife, Fediol, LAPAR, CMSZP, Familienbetriebe Land Und Forst and Acqua e Sole.