• What Is the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive?

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What Is the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive?

May 03 2021

The agricultural industry is under significant pressure at the present time. Not only does it have to produce enough food to sustain a ballooning global population, but it must also grapple with other factors such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental pollution. Pesticides have proven to be an invaluable method of maximising crop yields from the space available whilst simultaneously warding off unwanted pests, invasive plant species and disease.

However, many pesticides contain chemicals that can damage human health and biodiverse ecosystems if they are used excessively and allowed to accumulate in the environment. For that reason, the EU instituted strict controls on their deployment in 2009, with the introduction of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (SUD). For more than ten years, the SUD has served the agricultural community and EU lawmakers well in delineating guidelines for responsible use of these tools, but it now requires evaluation and revision to ensure it remains relevant today.

Failings in the current SUD

Since the inception of the SUD, the EU has been gathering compliance monitoring indices across the bloc to determine how effectively it has performed its role in policing the use of pesticides. Disappointingly, the figures demonstrate that sales of chemical pesticides have remained more or less at the same level for the last decade, with uptake of non-chemical alternatives well below anticipated targets. This may be due to a lack of availability or effectiveness in the alternatives in separate member states.

Whatever the reason, the continued popularity and excessive use of chemical pesticides is believed to be contributing to contamination of both soil and water, as well as a loss of biodiversity across the bloc, thus highlighting just how critical an impact agriculture can have on the surrounding environment. As a result, the EU have identified a number of faults with the existing SUD framework, including insufficient application and enforcement of its rules, a lack of commitment, clarity and cohesion among member states in their incorporation of the SUD into national legislation and no legal requirement for pesticide users to keep detailed records of their activities.

Expected changes

In an attempt to address those shortcomings and tighten the legislation going forwards, the EU is currently in the process of revising the SUD. A public consultation period took place earlier this year, during which relevant stakeholders and interested parties were invited to share their opinions and concerns with the EU on aspects of the SUD. Ultimately, Brussels hopes to combine this feedback with the latest scientific evidence to optimise the efficacy of the SUD and discourage the use of chemical pesticides, enhance the uptake of eco-friendly alternatives, enforce the legal requirements of the directive and improve monitoring capabilities in member states.

Although the UK no longer counts as a member state after its exit from the bloc last year, it is believed that standards and methods for environmental monitoring in the country will continue to closely follow that of its European counterparts. This will ensure harmony across the geographical region and safeguard the UK’s reputation as a champion of sustainability in agriculture and all other industries.

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