Factsheet: How does EU’s Common Agricultural Policy impact on knowledge exchange and advisory activities
“If biodiversity is to be restored in Europe and opportunities are to be created for crop production utilizing biodiversity-based ecosystem services such as biological pest control, there must be a Europe-wide shift towards farming with minimum use of pesticides over large areas”
(Geiger, F. et al. 2010)
PAN Europe recognises that EUs Common Agricultural Policy contains instruments like the Farm Advisory System and the European Innovative Partnership which can help to inform, train, and advise farmers. We nevertheless consider that huge steps need to be achieved before these tools become effectively operational. We also consider that these tools standing alone will not be able to encourage the transition that the European model of farming so desperately needs.
Gaps in the current Farm Advisory System with regards to pesticide use
Directive 2009/128/EC establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides (SUDP) specifies that as from 2013:
Member States shall take all necessary measures to promote low pesticide-input pest management, giving wherever possible priority to non-chemical methods, so that professional users of pesticides switch to practices and products with the lowest risk to human health and the environment among those available for the same pest problem. Low pesticide-input pest management includes integrated pest management as well as organic farming according to Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products.
Member States shall establish or support the establishment of necessary conditions for the implementation of integrated pest management. In particular, they shall ensure that professional users have at their disposal information and tools for pest monitoring and decision making, as well as advisory services on integrated pest management.
Member States shall establish appropriate incentives to encourage professional users to implement crop or sector-specific guidelines for integrated pest management on a voluntary basis. Public authorities and/or organisations representing particular professional users may draw up such guidelines. Member States shall refer to those guidelines that they consider relevant and appropriate in their National Action Plans.
This was officially integrated into the Farm Advisory System, as a mandatory measure, as part of the 2013 CAP reform into regulation (EU) No 1306/2013 on the financing, management and monitoring of the common agricultural policy now states in article 12.2 (e) that the farm advisory system shall cover as mandatory: requirements at the level of beneficiaries as defined by Member States for implementing Article 55 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009, in particular the requirement referred to in Article 14 of Directive 2009/128/EC. In reality this means that any EU farmer as from 2015 has a right to be informed by the FAS about alternatives to pesticides.
However, as can been seen in the annex, Member States are taking different approaches towards how many resources to dedicate to this objective, and one (Malta) has still not applied this. And while you would expect that this non-compliance would result in immediate questions from the European Commission towards the Member States in question, to verify compliance and with that consider potential financial correction of the direct payment.
In reality, PAN Europe’s access to document requests reveal that to date the European Commission has not been communicating with Member States at all on this matter, despite of our regular complaints to European Commission staff. The last and only report evaluating the FAS, since its introduction in 2007 was published in 2009.
There thus seems to be a serious gap in the FAS regarding the European Commission’s verification of Member States’ implementation of the FAS.
The FAS could or rather should be an important tool to encourage and allow farmers to reduce their dependency on pesticides by implementing integrated pest management which is mandatory for the all EU farmers to do. But in the current FAS, as can be seen in the annex, the majority of Member States have nominated private companies to deliver the work and many of the consultants’ have strong conflict of interests with the agroindustry lobby.
TheMember State National Action Plans and progress in the implementation of Directive 2009/128/EC on the sustainable use of pesticides’COM(2017) 587 final) specifies:Member States are required to include the IPM general principles in their farm advisory system under Article 12 (2) (e) of Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013. Member States highlighted that official advisory services, which are independent of commercial interest, are very important for IPM implementation’. Another fundamental aspect of FASs is that it is important to create independent FAS. This concept has been included into the CAP reform proposal and it is a good start to build on.…
The ways forwards for the EU to promote knowledge and (independent advises):
One of the main objectives of the FAS should be assisting farmers in their implementation of environmental legislation including the SUDP. The future FAS should not only be independent but should be highly trained about non-chemical alternatives to pesticides, have a broad field experience on the topic and should thus play a major role in assisting the transition.
Secondly, the FAS must be made visible allowing this body to become an attractive technical support in allowing farmers to strongly reduce their dependency on pesticides. Ideally, FAS’s mission could be extended to offer technical support to groups outside farming, for instance local communities going pesticide-free.
Finally, the FAS should be made dynamic to continuously update their knowledge on non-chemical alternatives, obtaining knowledge on this to trigger the necessary transition among others from:
The French National Agronomic Research Institute INRA’s research work ‘towards chemical free agriculture’ can be inspirational for other Member States.
The knowledge being built and shared in the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI), such as the focus group on non-chemical weed management in arable cropping systems, need to be spread throughout the EU. Examples of initiatives (e.g. the one in Austria on ‘Organic Dock Control’ and the one in France on "Zéro herbicides en cultures pérennes méditerranéennes") are numerous but little known. PAN Europe is calling for another focus group on towards pesticide free agriculture to be established in 2020, which could help overcome knowledge gaps even further.
Horizon 2020 EU financed research projects like OK-net arable which ended in 2018 and developed more than 150 materials with practical solutions for improving organic arable cropping have been collected, including solutions for non-chemical weed, and IWMPRAISE which started in 2017 aiming to support and promote integrated weed management (IWM) in Europe.
It is time to establish an EU pool of expertise on this matter, and PAN Europe is willing to contribute!
As mentioned in PAN Europe’s publication, alternative methods in weed management or the use of glyphosate and other herbicides:
Remember the slogan of the BHU Future Farming Centre, Permanent Agriculture and Horticulture: Science and Extension
With Chemical Weed Management most of the skill and knowledge lies with the biochemist
- farmers and growers just follow the instructions
With Non Chemical Weed Management (NCWM) most of the skill and knowledge lies with the farmer and grower
Effective NCWM is impossible if you don’t understand weeds /plants and how they interact with their environment
The FAS we need in the future is a FAS shifting the knowledge from the biochemist to the farmer and grower, so the latter need some significant up-skilling but also allows him or her to start working with nature again.
Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN Europe) was founded in 1987 and brings together consumer, public health, environmental organisations, and women's groups from across Europe. PAN Europe is part of the global network PAN International working to minimise the negative effects and replace the use of harmful pesticides with ecologically sound alternatives.
For further information contact: Henriette Christensen, henriette [at] pan-europe.info
For annexes, please see PDF file in attachment
Ricardo - Status: private
CAFRE - Status: public
Nr. of designated bodies: 1
Nr. of advisors: 28
Nr. of designated bodies: 1
Nr. of advisors: 43
Source: DG AGRI 2018, access to document request