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Commission president proposes to pull contentious pesticides regulation

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has proposed to withdraw the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation (SUR), which she has described as a ‘symbol of polarisation’. 

Speaking this week, the president said the regulation had the ‘worthy aim’ of reducing the risks of chemical plant protection products. “But the SUR proposal has become a symbol of polarisation. It has been rejected by the European Parliament. There is no progress anymore in the Council either. So, we have to do something,” she said.
Her announcement has come against a backdrop of intense farmer protests that took place across Europe, including here in Ireland, over the last week. Referencing the situation, she said: “While the European Council was in session, farmers from across Europe were taking to the streets. Many of them feel pushed into a corner,” she said.
“Farmers are the first in line feeling the effects of climate change. Droughts and floods have destroyed their harvests and threatened livestock. Farmers are feeling the impact of the Russian war. Inflation, the rising cost of energy and fertilisers. Nevertheless, they work hard every day, to produce the quality food we eat. For this, I think we owe them appreciation and thanks and respect.”
She said the recently launched Strategic Dialogue on the Future of Agriculture in the European Union invites a broad scope of representatives of the farming sector, the young farmers, the rural communities, the seed and fertiliser industry, the food sector, the processing sector, but also the financial sector, the cooperative banking sector, the consumers and environmental groups, and of course science. “We need to analyse the situation together, share ideas and most importantly develop scenarios for the future. We need to move beyond a polarised debate and to create trust. Trust is the crucial basis for viable solutions.”
Nature conservation can only be successful through a bottom-up and incentive-based approach, she said, adding: “Because only if our farmers can live off their land will they invest in the future. And only if we achieve our climate and environmental goals together, will farmers be able to continue to make a living.
“Our farmers are well aware of this. And we should place more trust in them.” She said that despite the proposal to withdraw the SUR, the topic stays and to move forward, more dialogue and a different approach is needed. “And on this basis, the Commission could make a new proposal with much more matured content and with the stakeholders together.”