ENDURE scientists were recently invited by Mrs Erna Hennicot, Member of the European Parliament, to present their study on the future of crop protection in Europe at the European Parliament in Brussels.
As Jean-François Maljean from the Directorate-General for Research (DG-RTD) indicated, ENDURE (which has funding of €11.2 million over four years) is by far the largest project launched by the European Commission to support integrated and outstanding research in durable crop protection strategies.
New legislation - the so-called ‘pesticides package’ - recently adopted by the European Parliament creates new constraints on the use of plant protection products and calls for an in-depth reconsideration of crop protection solutions throughout Europe. Paul Speight from DG Environment stressed that implementation of the package is now the key issue and will require the coordination of a wide range of actors, among which scientists are expected to contribute by offering new solutions.
The five scenarios presented by ENDURE coordinator Pierre Ricci and his co-workers, Emilie Latxague and Marco Barzman, illustrated the different crop protection challenges farmers would face in different contexts. These contexts will depend on the primary goal set for European agriculture: competing on a free global market, facing a food or energy crisis, or contributing services to local communities beyond food production.
These scenarios are tools for exploring what opportunities science and technologies can offer in the next 20 years to develop innovative crop protection strategies, how the various stakeholders can help farmers adopt these strategies and what political decisions can support these changes.
The audience included representatives of farmers’ unions, agrochemical and biocontrol industries, environmental NGOs, ministers from Member States and research institutions. The presentation also provided the opportunity for five DGs from the European Commission (Environment, Research, Enterprise and Industry, Agriculture and Rural Development, and SANCO) to meet and exchange views on the topic.
Opening the debate chaired by Mrs Hennicot, Mrs Christa Klass, Member of the European Parliament, stressed the all-encompassing challenges posed by climate change and limited agricultural land in the face of global food needs and the role Europe should play in sharing the burden of food production alongside a balanced implementation of sustainable agricultural policies.
While the chemical industry raised the issue of possible impacts on the costs of food and agricultural products, Mrs Hennicot stressed the concerns about human health, uncertainties on the cumulative effects of pesticides and the need for strict risk assessment. Farming representatives expressed demands for tools and technologies (including GMOs), and the NGO Pesticide Action Network emphasised the non-technological aspects of informing and rewarding farmers to facilitate the transition towards Integrated Pest Management.
In the coming months, ENDURE members will present this foresight study in their respective countries. This will encourage debate on transforming crop protection while Member States begin to develop their action plans in order to comply with the European Framework Directive on the sustainable use of pesticides.
Click here to get the complete foresight study publication: