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How Should Crop Production Products be Regulated?

How Should Crop Production Products be Regulated?

17 October 2013

ANALYSIS - Concerns are rising in the chemical and crop protection industry that regulations that are starting to be implemented by the European Commission could damage the food and agriculture sectors, writes Chris Harris.

The main concerns surround EC Regulation 1107/2009, which started to come into effect in 2011 and still seeing aspects being implemented.

The regulation controls the products that are allowed to be used on plants to protect them from pests and diseases. It lists those products and chemicals that can and cannot be used and allows for some products to be substituted for others.

However, industry concerns are that the legislation is too vaguely written and because it is based on a hazard assessment and a precautionary principle, it is open to interpretation, misinterpretation and misuse.

Julia Sauer, the manager of public and government affairs for Europe at Bayer Crop Science told the recent British Crop Production Council congress in Brighton that the hazard approach to regulation can lead to arbitrary political decisions and inconsistent legislation that can distort the market.

She said that the regulations have to take into account the facts and science otherwise the inconsistency in legislation can also become a trade issue.

The concerns over the legislation governing the use of pesticides and other plant protection products have grown at a time when the plant protection industry and the agricultural sector is discussing ways to grow more crops and increase food production – crops, livestock and dairy products – to feed a growing global population and with more and more limited land, water and environmental resources.

Much of the agricultural sector maintains that there will be an increased need for products to help protect crops to grow more food and feed and to increase yields.

Gordon Rennick from the Pesticide Registration and Control Division of the Department of Agriculture in Ireland told the congress that because of the changing global population, an emerging middle class and a change in eating habits there is going to be a need for more food.

“We have switched to a more meat based diet because of the growth of the middle class,” he said.

“We have doubled our consumption of meat over the last 20 to 30 years and this will only accelerate.

“We will see less extensive grazing and more fed-lot production and this means the use of more wheat and grain.”

He said that the world will need to find 300 million hectares more land – an area the size of India – if the world is to keep up with the demand for food by 2050.

To achieve this increase in production he said that the world will have to maximise production from the existing land resource and reduce crop spoilage.

This will require more research into cultivar enhancement, crop protection, water usage and agricultural machinery.

However, the agriculture and crop protection industries are concerned that these requirements could be thwarted by the implementation of regulations from Brussels.

Julia Sauer called for more transparency in the implementation of the regulations on crop protection products and a more risk based approach to the legislation.

She said there is also concern in the industry that as products put forward as potential substitutes for those that are being used at present, a black list of products that are safe and efficient could emerge.

Rob Mason the director of regulatory policy and the Chemical Regulation Directorate in the UK said that there were also concerns over potential political constraints on the products that will be allowed to be used and he called for the review of a the implementation of the regulation next year to be used to rebalance the regime.

The uncertainties about the way the regulations is being implemented in different states and zones in the EU were also highlighted by Janet Williams , the regulatory affairs manager at Bayer Crop Science and Claudio Mereu a partner in Field Fisher Waterhouse.

“There are different ways the criteria can be interpreted,” said Ms Williams.

And Mr Mereu added: “When you look closely, you see more and more uncertainties.”

However, the congress heard that there will be a growing need for more products to protect crops to grow more food and feed to supply the growing global population and to achieve this goal, Prof Lorraine Maltby from the University of Sheffield said landscapes will have to be managed to optimise the delivery of a “suite of ecosystem services, including food”.

“There is not enough land and we have to use the land we have got more wisely,” she said.

“Crop production is one of the eco-system services and it includes the use of pesticides.

“We need to produce protection laws that focus on ecosystem services.

“We cannot produce food and not affect biodiversity, but we have to choose what effects can be acceptable.”

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

Top image via Shutterstock

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