How the pesticide lobby is sabotaging the EU pesticide reduction law (SUR)
After the Nature Restoration Law, another key Green Deal initiative is under attack
As the European Parliament prepares to vote on its pesticide reduction law (SUR) in plenary this week, new evidence exposes the pesticide lobby’s latest efforts to delay and derail this law.
The new roundup of lobby evidence reveals:
- How industry’s impact studies they used to campaign against the pesticide reduction law were widely discredited by scientists and NGOs. But over 2022 and 2023, pesticide lobby groups – in alliance with big farm lobby Copa-Cogeca - kept hammering on these self-funded impact ‘studies’ to delay the SUR. This delay meant that critical time was lost to finish negotiating the SUR.
- We found new examples of these ‘impact studies’ at the national level from Slovenia, Poland and Germany, which were used in lobby campaigns in those countries.
- These same lobby actors worked hard to seriously damage the ambition and effectiveness of the SUR: They pushed for the pesticide reduction targets to be lowered or made just aspirational; lobbied to stop EU farm subsidies from being used for pesticide reduction and for spraying in sensitive areas to be allowed as much as possible; and downplayed the potential of biocontrol solutions.
- Corporations also pushed their messages by sponsoring media content in a not always transparent way; and pushed for their own technology fixes like digital tools and new GMOs instead of binding targets.
- There is a grave lack of transparency over EU member state lobbying: CEO submitted Freedom of Information requests to all EU member states to find out how they had been lobbied via their permanent representations in Brussels. Out of 27 permanent representations, only 9 replied, with only 5 providing information about meetings.
The core group of corporate actors lobbying against the pesticide reduction law together declared a total annual lobby spending of 15 million euros (on all policy issues including the SUR). This group consists of Bayer, BASF, Syngenta and Corteva; their lobby associations CropLife Europe and Euroseeds; and five other outfits. In addition, farm lobby Copa-Cogeca has an annual self-declared lobby spending of 1.5 million euros. However, these self-declared figures are normally vast underestimates.
SUR further undermined by MEPs, Member States and the Commission
In recent months the SUR is being further undermined in the negotiation process:
One big outstanding problem is that the proposed methodology by the Commission to measure actual pesticide reduction is very flawed. This would make it impossible to measure real reduction of pesticides and will give the impression of reduction when it's not actually happening. The European Parliament had the opportunity to fix this but failed to do so due to resistance by political groups on the right, despite efforts by the Green Rapporteur.
As for the Council, the situation is equally dire. The Spanish Presidency of the EU, with the Commission, have proposed to heavily compromise on the targets by deleting both national targets to reduce the risk and use of pesticides, and to reduce the use of the more hazardous pesticides.
Nina Holland, campaigner and researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory says:
“When the EU announced its EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy, it appeared to recognise the need to act urgently to tackle the big ecological crises of our times. But years of misleading lobbying efforts by the pesticide industry mean that this week the EU parliament will be voting on a severely hollowed-out pesticide reduction law (SUR).
“Just like the oil industry funded climate deniers in the past, corporations like Bayer and BASF, their lobby groups and political allies have been waging an outright irresponsible and scandalous lobby campaign to stall, undermine, and derail the pesticide reduction law SUR.
“At a time when we need to be tackling the causes of biodiversity decline, not in the least to protect food security in the long run, the EPP and other politicians are prioritising corporate well-being big time over health the environment”.
For more information contact: Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory researcher and campaigner firstname.lastname@example.org (+32) (0) 466 294 420
Notes to the editor:
- In 2022, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) published a report on how the pesticide lobby tried to delay and derail the new pesticide reduction law (SUR): “A loud lobby for a silent spring - The pesticide industry's toxic lobbying tactics against Farm to Fork”.
- The updated article published today is based on hundreds of documents obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the European Commission and the 27 permanent representations, submissions to EU consultation, the monitoring of lobby events and corporate-sponsored media content, and personal communication with the actors involved. Read the full article here.
- 1.1 million people have supported a European Citizens’ Initiative calling for a very ambitious pesticide reduction and support for farmers to achieve this.
- 6000 scientists have expressed their support for both the pesticide reduction law and the Nature Restoration Law as essential for food security in the long term.
- CEO has tracked the attacks on the Farm to Fork Strategy, and notably the pesticide reduction law, since the start of the Von der Leyen Commission in 2019 (see here, and here).