EU Pesticides Vote Looms Soon After Holiday

18 December 2008
Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Mr Alyn Smith has, on the last session day of the European Parliament in 2008, urged his fellow MEPs to reflect over the holiday period on the potential implications of the current debate on pesticides policy. The package will come before the full plenary meeting of the Parliament on 13 January 2009 and Smith fears the vote, done wrong, could have serious repercussions for Scottish and European farming.

Smith has also welcomed the latest position paper from the European Crop Protection Association which, while run by the chemicals industry, does contain some useful points as the vote looms. Mr Smith has previously been critical of the chemical industry's crying wolf on the likely implications of any vote as unhelpful to the discussion.

Smith said:

"Using crop protection products is a necessity for Scotland's farmers, given our wet northerly climate, and I have yet to meet a farmer who does not use as little as possible because the chemicals companies do not give them away for free! I have no difficulty at all with the idea that the chemicals industry must be forced to innovate, but there has to be a balance and the legislation we pass in this Chamber must be workable.

"The proposals which will be presented to the full Plenary by the Environment Committee in January go too far, and have been highly criticised in the Agriculture Committee. I have tried to take a pragmatic approach to push for more workable legislation and am putting down a number of sensible amendments which I hope colleagues will support.

"Alternatives to many of the chemicals which the legislation proposes to ban have not been fully developed, and are mainly highly targeted niche options. This often makes them expensive and impracticable, and we can ill afford to make farming more expensive at a time of rising input costs.

"I also take issue with the "cut-off" concept which would remove many chemicals from the market altogether, despite not taking into account a normal use scenario. This could be disastrous for some farmers while not improving safety one jot.

"In fact, by pushing consumers to buy cheaper foreign foods, with no pesticide restrictions whatsoever, this whole policy may backlash, and in effect export our food production to areas outwith the EU's control.

"I hope that members have a restful break, and come back with clearer heads than we have seen to date. The plenary vote in January is important for Scottish farmers, as well as sustainable agriculture across the whole EU, and our food production is too important to jeopardise for a dossier that is at times more theological than scientific."