More than 230 people including politicians, scientists and farmers attended November's Paris policy seminar sponsored by the French presidency of the European Union with scientific backing from ENDURE. Over two days, delegates explored the topic of ‘Sustainable Agriculture and Pesticides: What is at stake and what are the options?’ through a mixture of plenary sessions and workshops.
The seminar was opened by France’s Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier (pictured below), who outlined the challenges facing all stakeholders seeking to create a more sustainable European agriculture. He said Europe needed agriculture that was more sustainable, that could feed its growing population and that also respected the environment, biodiversity and the health of farmers and consumers.
With European politicians currently focusing on the proposal for a Directive establishing a framework for Community action to achieve a sustainable use of pesticides and a revision of Directive 91/414 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, the Minister emphasised France’s pledge to cut pesticide use by 50% over the next 10 years.
Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, France’s secretary of state for ecology, stressed the need for a holistic approach to agriculture and the importance of ongoing research in achieving a balance between environmental concerns and sufficient harvests. We need, she said, to explore alternative strategies and techniques.
As part of its scientific support for the event, ENDURE organised one of four workshops, focusing on the role of governance and actor networks in mainstreaming integrated pest management (IPM).
Under the chair of Marion Guillou, managing director of INRA (the French National Institute for Agricultural Research), Silke Dachbrodt-Saaydeh (from Germany’s Julius Kuhn Institute and leader of ENDURE’s SA4.5 group) and ENDURE assistant coordinator Marco Barzman (INRA, France) analysed the drivers and barriers to IPM implementation.
They were followed by examples of how IPM can be implemented, with Tiziano Galassi, from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna Regional Phytosanitary Service, outlining how IPM in the region had developed. Today, some 20% of agricultural land is cultivated using IPM.
Philippe Lucas (INRA, France) and Denis Onfroy (French National Federation of Vegetable Producers) provided insights into the PIClég partnership, which brings together researchers, technical institutes, trial stations and growers in a 10-year programme. Under the partnership, the problems faced by growers are translated into research projects.
Onfroy (pictured right), himself a vegetable grower in Normandy, told the workshop how changes in crop rotations could transform soils that have grown tired through many years of intensive production. In Normandy, vegetable growers introduced cereal crops into their rotations, with rapid improvements in soil health.
ENDURE executive committee member Per Kudsk, from Denmark’s Aarhus University, analysed his country’s approach to IPM, highlighting that the use of fungicides on wheat crops had been cut substantially through the use of a range of ‘tools’ such as better timing of applications, the development of forecasting and threshold models and choosing disease resistant varieties. Attempts to reduce herbicide use have been less successful, he said, because of a focus only on optimising herbicide dosage rather than examining other preventive or growing methods.
ENDURE researcher Isabelle Haynes (INRA, France) explored the role supermarket certification schemes can play in IPM implementation. Supermarkets, she said, have focused mainly on ensuring the security of the food chain rather than IPM, with producers receiving little reward for the demands made on them by these schemes.
Caroline Drummond, chief executive of the UK group Linking Environment And Farming (LEAF), explored her organisation’s multi-directional approach that seeks to reduce the risks associated with pesticide use as part of a whole farm system.
UK farmers signing up with LEAF receive access to a variety of farm management tools that help guide them towards creating a more sustainable approach. This includes both self-assessments and the use of independently verifiable standards based on environmental criteria. The latter play an important role in reassuring consumers about the quality of their food and how it has been produced, with some 18% of fresh fruit and vegetables now sold in the UK carrying the LEAF marque.
To read an interview with Silke Dachbrodt-Saaydeh, click here.
To read more about the event, click here.
To see the video of the event (in French), click here.
To read the ENDURE newsletter produced for this event: