The European Union wants member states to reduce use of chemical pesticides by half as part of its Green Deal targets, known as the Farm to Fork strategy, that aims to make food systems more environmentally-friendly.
Under a legally binding rule proposed by the European Commission this week, EU countries would be required, collectively, to achieve the target by 2030.
In a news briefing, the executive arm of the EU said the current rules limiting the use of pesticides were too weak. Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said that under the proposals there would be a complete end to the use of chemical pesticides in some public areas, but not an outright ban.
“By 2030 half of chemical pesticides should be replaced by alternatives, with practices like crop rotation and technologies like precision farming,” Timmermans said. “We also propose to prohibit all pesticide use in sensitive areas like schools, hospitals, parks and playgrounds,” he added.
The Associated Press noted a recent study by Pesticide Action Network Europe that identified toxic pesticide contamination of fruit and vegetables produced within the bloc had significantly increased over the past decade.
EU funds will be made available to farmers to expedite the evolution from chemical pesticides to alternative methods, the commission said.
It confirmed it is also seeking to bring in a law aimed at mending environmental damage and restoring wildlife on land, rivers and the sea.
Targets include restoring 20 percent of land and sea biodiversity by 2030, with all ecosystems to be under restoration by 2050, and reversing the decline of pollinator populations.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has raised concerns about global food security that must be tackled urgently but not at the expense of sustainability and biodiversity targets, according to EU Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
“These concerns are valid. But they do not make action on pesticides any less urgent,” she said at the briefing.
She added: “We need to reduce the use of chemical pesticides to protect our soil, air and food, and ultimately the health of our citizens. This is not about banning pesticides. This is about making them a last-resort measure.”
Timmermans said the concerns around food security must not be used as an excuse to delay the implementation of the Farm to Fork strategy, which he told reporters would be “frankly, quite irresponsible”.
He added: “When we restore nature, we allow it to continue providing clean air, water, and food, and we enable it to shield us from the worst of the climate crisis. Reducing pesticide use likewise helps nature recover, and protects the humans who work with these chemicals.”