Dogmatic EU Pesticide Vote Still Needs Work

13 January 2009
Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Mr Alyn Smith has today (Tuesday) been disappointed by a vote of the full Parliament in Strasbourg which approved the plant protection products dossier and rejected all the amendments he and colleagues had put down to the package.

The package was adopted by 577 votes to 61, with the SNP group voting against.

The dossier now moves to the member state governments and the European Commission for further negotiation over its implementation, and Smith hopes that the implementation of the package will be done in such a way as to make the package workable. There is already talk of a formal complaint by the chemicals industry to the European Ombudsman over the way the dossier has been handled, though Smith has been critical of the chemicals industry exaggerating the potential impact of the legislation.

Smith said:

"This is a sair one, and I am unhappy with today's result but it is, fortunately, not the end of the process. I am disappointed that the vote did not take the opportunity to inject more safeguards and flexibility into the package. At a time when farmers do not have their troubles to seek with rising input costs and currency fluctuations giving added uncertainty, MEPs should have been much more careful than I believe we were today in restricting the tools of the trade.

"However, compared to where we were last year we have seen real progress, and in some ways it is good that this is now out of the Parliament, as the devil will be in the detail of the implementation and there is yet ample scope for this package to be implemented in a way which will spur innovation in the chemicals industry and not burden farmers.

"Crucially, I believe we have won the argument over the inadequacy of the impact assessment of this legislation, and am confident that there will be much more attention paid to the economic impact of the provisions as they come to be implemented. To ban a product in five years time is a very different prospect than banning it tomorrow, and I believe the Commission has been sensitised to the real world impact this legislation will have.

"We were also not helped in our efforts by some pretty hysterical lobbying by some elements of the chemicals industry, which only made it easier for our opponents to dismiss our case. I have said from the outset that I have no difficulty with using legislation to pressure the chemicals industry to innovate and come up with cheaper safer products, but I remain of the view that the Parliament's compromise today goes too far and must be watered down by the Commission and member state governments to make it workable."