EUROPE – The European Parliament has dealt a blow to the European Green Deal’s ambitions by rejecting the Commission’s proposal aimed at reducing the sustainable use of plant protection products across the continent.

The decision, which follows the recent extension of the use of the controversial pesticide glyphosate, has sparked heated debates among policymakers, environmentalists, and the farming community.

The rejected proposal, part of the broader European Green Deal initiative, sought to curtail the ecological footprint of the EU’s food system by slashing the use of chemical pesticides by 50% before 2030.

However, after a tense debate, 299 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted against the bill, while 207 supported it, leaving 121 MEPs abstaining from voting.

Rapporteur MEP Sarah Wiener did not mince her words, calling it “a very dark day for the environment and farmers.” She expressed disappointment, accusing most MEPs of prioritizing the profits of major agricultural companies over the well-being of children and the planet.

Environmentalists, including Eric Gall, Deputy Director of IFOAM Organics Europe, condemned the rejection, stating that policymakers’ lack of political will to address pesticide reduction underscores the urgency of developing organic farming as the best way to protect public health and the environment.

Despite broad scientific and public consensus on the need to phase out pesticides, Slow Food, a defender of biodiversity and farmers’ rights, criticized the watering down of the initial Commission regulation proposal.

Amendments suppressing national binding targets and rules for integrated pest management were adopted, leading Slow Food advocacy Director Madeleine Coste to assert that the Parliament sided with the agroindustry, ignoring the scientific consensus on transforming the current food system.

Amid the controversy, proponents of an organic approach to agriculture are gaining traction. Organic variants of pesticides are being hailed as promising natural alternatives, aligning with the European Green Deal’s vision to halve pesticide use by 2030.

IFOAM Organics Europe emphasizes that organic farming, relying on preventive and indirect agronomic measures, is proof that quality food can be produced without the reliance on synthetic pesticides.

However, the discussion around organic farming is not without its complexities. The European Crop Protection Association has warned of potential ecological trade-offs resulting from an increase in organic agriculture. The abundance of organic fertilizer used across vast areas may pose challenges to maintaining current productivity levels.

The glyphosate debate continues to loom large in the background. As an ingredient in common weed killers, glyphosate has been a concern for the EU, with worries about its impact on nutrition and food security.

The World Health Organization (WHO) labeled glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015, raising concerns about its effects on health, biodiversity, soil life, and water quality.

Despite these concerns, earlier this month, the European Commission proposed the renewal of glyphosate’s approval to member states, under strict conditions such as a prohibition on pre-harvest use as a desiccant and the adoption of measures to protect non-target organisms.

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