By Tony Lowes.
Ireland has joined 9 other member states in torpedoing proposed transparency in pesticides-use Regulations which would require farmers to use micro-data transmission to report annual farm-level data on pesticide use.
There are currently no precise data showing which pesticides are used for food production in the Member States and where, when and in what quantities they are used.
This is in spite of the fact that farmers are obliged to, and have been, collecting this data in their farm records for many years; and Eurostat has provided statistics on crops and animals for many decades.
A 2020 report from the EU Court of Auditors said that “progress in measuring and reducing the risks of pesticide use in the EU has been limited” and biodiversity loss on agricultural land “has not been halted”.
The European Commission is unable to precisely monitor the effects or risks resulting from pesticide use because there are currently no precise data to enable the implementation of the European Green Deal aim of 50% pesticide reduction by 2030.
Samo Jereb, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report, says: “An opportunity to properly address this issue was offered by a new Common Agricultural Policy coming into force in 2021, but was unfortunately missed”.
While statistics are not a tool to control the compliance of individual farmers with the rules on pesticides, they are a tool to control whether the regulations in place are achieving their targets.
According to the Commission, which – along with the Parliament – supports the Regulation, data collections are not harmonised and coherent to a satisfactory degree because new data needs are emerging, legislation has been developed separately over many years, and there are sometimes different definitions and concepts in different agricultural areas.
The Regulations would make the parts fit together and makes the output more significant than their sum. The Regulations also adopt international recommendations such as the guidelines for reporting greenhouse gas emissions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The Regulations must be approved by the Council which of course comprises members’ Ministers, where Ireland and nine other member states are opposing their adoption, in forthcoming ‘trilogues’.
The member states argue that “It is not the purpose of European statistics to control the behaviour of farmers, but such an image would be created if this proposal would be realised”.
Under the current system, while every farm is required to create and keep pesticides records, only a selection of farms answering voluntary surveys are reported every five years. Sales-data, the current benchmark, is not use-data.
The failure to adopt the Regulation will also undermine the Aarhus guarantee of the existing right of citizens to know what is emitted in their environment.
Tony Lowes is one of the Directors of Friends of the Irish Environment.