In a surprise vote, the European parliament decided this week to ditch legislation aimed at reducing the use of chemical pesticides in the EU by at least 50% and to completely ban them in ‘sensitive areas’ such as public parks and playgrounds.
The proposal was a key component of the ‘farm to fork strategy’, a plank of the European Green Deal spearheaded by former EU commissioner Frans Timmermans, and seeking to reduce the environmental impact of the EU’s food system.
Following the debate at the parliament plenary session in Strasbourg, 299 MEPs voted on Wednesday to reject the proposal, while 207 supported it and 121 abstained.
“This is a very black day for the health of society and for the environment, and also for farmers who need to be free from the agro-industry,” said Sarah Wiener, the Green MEP leading on the file, after the vote.
The proposal had raised controversy, as the European People’s Party (the largest group at the European parliament) called it ‘extremist’ and ‘excessive’, claiming it would reduce food production in Europe.
Earlier amendments had already significantly watered down the text. The result was that MEPs from several political groups decided to vote against or abstain.
“Restrictions on toxin use in sensitive natural areas were completely removed from the law by the right-wing bloc. As a result, the pesticide reduction law was watered down to such an extent that even green and progressive MEPs could no longer support it. Consequently, a majority of the European parliament voted against the law,” the Left group said in a press release.
Wiener requested a vote to refer the proposal back to the parliament environment committee, but a majority of MEPs voted against that too.
Dutch GroenLinks MEP Bas Eickhout said that “conservative majorities continue to protect the current agricultural model”.
“This is a disastrous decision for our environment and the health of humans and animals. The only beneficiaries are poison manufacturers like Bayer-Monsanto and BASF, who have secured their billion-dollar profits for the time being,” said MEP Anja Hazekamp from the pro-animal PvdA, as she promised to “continue to fight.”
A Commission spokesperson said that the legislative process is “not completed yet” as the EU Council still has to decide on its own position on the proposal. The council, at least in theory, could reject it or make changes and send it back to the parliament for a second reading.
Earlier in summer, the EPP also pushed for a rejection of the EU nature restoration law, which aims to restore land and sea ecosystems damaged by pollution. The file, however, survived the parliament vote.
In November negotiators from the parliament and council agreed on the final text, which will be submitted for endorsement to the parliament environment committee on November 29th.
EU member states also failed to agree on what to do about the herbicide glyphosate which has been linked to Parkinson’s and cancer. In the end the European Commission voted to licence it for a further 10 years.
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