Sustainable Use Regulation (SUR) - A setback for the Green Deal


Sustainable Use Regulation (SUR) - A setback for the Green Deal

The European Commission (EC), under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen, has chosen to withdraw the Sustainable Use Regulation (SUR). This marks a notable setback for the Green Deal.

Originally proposed in 2022, the regulation aimed to halve pesticide usage by 2030, with provisions for their prohibition in sensitive areas. However, due to opposition from the agricultural sector and rejection by the European Parliament, von der Leyen announced the withdrawal, citing a lack of progress

Aoife Dillon, Principal Scientist for Crop Inputs at Fera commented:The president of the European Parliament’s Environmental Committee, Pascal Canfin spoke about “revising the text to retain the parts related to alternatives to chemical pesticides by significantly accelerating authorization procedures for biocontrol products and allowing the reasoned use of precision farming tools”.

While clearly it is disappointing that pesticide reduction targets will now not be set in legislation, continued commitment to accelerating authorization procedures for biocontrol products canstill deliver significant benefits if growers have access to more affordable and effective biopesticides. Consumers and supermarkets can still choose to source fruit and vegetables grown under low inputs and organic systems, even if it takes longer for longer than we had hoped for legally binding reduction targets to become a reality.'

This decision comes in the wake of farmer protests and a backlash from certain Member States against the European Green Deal. Von der Leyen underscored the necessity for a more sustainable production model in the farming sector, which contributes over 10% to the EU's greenhouse gas emissions. Despite retracting the current proposal, she stressed the sustained importance of pesticide regulation and hinted at a more mature proposal in the future.

The withdrawal process necessitates ratification by the College of Commissioners in the ensuing weeks. Von der Leyen assured that the pesticide regulation issue would persist on the agenda, but a new proposal would likely be the responsibility of the subsequent Commission, given the tight schedule imposed by the imminent European Parliament elections.

The demise of the Sustainable Use Regulation symbolises the conclusion of the Farm 2 Fork strategy, launched in 2020 to improve the health and sustainability of Europe's food systems. The strategy faced dilution under pressure from conservatives and lobbyists, resulting in the abandonment of the Sustainable Food System Law last year. Additionally, other agriculture-related legislations, including rules on farmed animal welfare and EU-wide nutritional food labelling, remained undelivered.

European Farmers and European Agri-Cooperatives (COPA-COGECA), the prominent farmers' lobby in Brussels, applauded the withdrawal, criticising the poorly designed and evaluated proposal. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, advocating for a "pause" in environmental regulation, supported the decision, emphasising the importance of maintaining farmers' support for a sustainable future. Conversely, environmental organisations criticised the move, insisting on the necessity for legally binding reduction targets to address the hazardous effects of pesticides.


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