Sabotaging EU Pesticide Reduction Law (SUR)
Pesticide industry lobby's reckless assault on biodiversity and health
It is make-or-break time for several urgent key topics under the EU’s Green Deal and its Farm to Fork Strategy. In June this year for example, the Nature Restoration Law became the center of a turbulent media storm when the right-wing conservative group in the European Parliament tried to kill it as part of a publicity stunt to launch their EU election campaign.
Next up will be the pesticide reduction law (Sustainable Use Regulation, or SUR), which has been under attack from the very start. Industry lobbies and their allies have waged a relentless attack on the Farm to Fork promise to cut pesticide use and harm in half by 2030.
“Current political efforts to abandon the sustainability goals of the European Green Deal, including the reduction of pesticide use and the restoration of biodiversity, do not protect us from the current food crisis, but lead to a worsening and make the crisis permanent” - Josef Settele, Co-Chair of the World Biodiversity Council
In 2023, 1.1 million European citizens called for an 80% reduction in pesticide use in EU agriculture followed by a complete phase-out, as well as support for farmers in making that transition. This demand was spurred by the failure of EU Member States to implement the previous pesticide law (the Sustainable Use of pesticides Directive, 2009/128), which is based on the principle that synthetic pesticides should only be used as a last resort.
Although the pesticides industry has pretended to embrace the EU Green Deal goals and the Farm to Fork targets – such as the pesticide reduction target in the SUR - it has in fact worked very hard to delay and derail them. Corporate Europe Observatory (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).
Their campaign started by an old lobby tactic to cause delays: calling for more impact assessment for the sake of 'food security'. They used both the Covid-crisis and the Russian invasion on Ukraine to amplify their calls.
This report is a roundup of lobby evidence from 2022 and 2023, serving as a follow up to CEO’s 2022 report ‘A Loud Lobby for a Silent Spring’. It 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.
There is ample evidence that the pesticide industry lobby has acted as irresponsibly as fossil fuel corporations with regards to our common future on this planet. Stopping harm to biodiversity and ecosystems and addressing the climate crisis are one and the same thing. The lack of action is causing despair among scientists. “We know that ecosystems are collapsing, with major risks to us as well,” said Guy Pe’er, an ecologist at the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, in DeSmog. “Why is there such a glaring gap between the knowledge about what needs to be done and action by politicians?”
What the Russian invasion in Ukraine “is making abundantly clear is also that the resilience of our food system longer term requires a fundamental re-orientation of EU agriculture and EU food systems towards security and sustainability” - European Commission, May 2022
The corporate lobby against pesticide reduction, in numbers
In the EU, pesticides are a lucrative business worth more than €12 billion annually. The market is concentrated in the hands of four major producers – Bayer, BASF, Syngenta and Corteva – that invest not only in pesticides but also in PR, spin and lobbying to make sure their profits remain high, and the ambitions of the Green Deal stay low.
Figures on lobbying can be found in our website LobbyFacts, that uses data submitted by corporations and organisations to the EU Transparency Register. It is important to note that these figures are industry's own declared totals, and may therefore be vastly underestimated. In the past, CEO found that one single contract (between consultancy FleishmanHillard and Monsanto) was worth 14.5 million euros. Lobby group CIBE, as another example, declared a lobby spending of 75.000 euros in 2020, but has an overall budget of ten times as much in the same year, 750.000 euros, while its main remit is lobbying. This provides a stark contrast with the companies’ self-declared lobby spending figures. Even so, for this report we have taken the lowest figures within the wide range declared in the register.
Companies are not the sole voices of the pesticide lobby. This sector coordinates its power brokering in EU quarters through lobby associations like CropLife Europe and Euroseeds. They hire lobby consultancy firms and law firms for specialized lobby activities; and think tanks and media companies to help spread their propaganda.
This core group of corporate actors lobbying against the pesticide reduction law together declared a total lobby spending of 15 million euros (on all policy issues including the SUR), using the figures for the most recent year available. This group consists of Bayer, BASF, Syngenta and Corteva; their lobby associations CropLife Europe and Euroseeds; and five other outfits mentioned in this report (COCERAL, CIBE, CEFS, Agriculture & Progress and FarmEurope).
Farm lobby Copa-Cogeca, which also lobbied very actively to weaken the SUR, is not included in this total and has an annual self-declared lobby spending of 1.5 million euros.
According to LobbyFacts, when the reported lobby spending figures for this group of nine corporate organisations are added up over the three years the SUR was debated (2020, 2021, 2022), these organizations had a total declared lobby spending figure of 40.4 million euros. If you consider that 2023 spending levels are likely to be at the same level, these actors self-declared spending for the key four years of the development of the SUR (2020-2023), will surely top 50 million euros.
When searching for the term ‘sustainable use of pesticides’ (used in both the previous directive and the currently proposed regulation), we found another 17 corporate lobby actors that declare lobby activities on the topic, including the European Golf Association, the European Crop Care Association and the British Agriculture Bureau. Leaving out lobby consultancies from this list (with the assumption that their clients include their fees as lobby spending), this adds up to another 3 million euros in annual lobby spending (self-declared) on all issues.
These figures still exclude spending by other lobby associations that have also contributed to the campaign against the pesticide reduction law. For instance, a wide group of 17 agribusiness lobby groups that included the pesticide lobby as well as TomatoEurope, Europatat and the European Snacks Association, rallied around around a joint letter in 2022.
Most big pesticide producers also have contracts with several consultancies that advance their interests on EU policy. Bayer, for instance, has an annual contract totalling 800,000 euros with lobby firm Rud Pedersen. These consultancies like to employ people with highly influential backgrounds; Rud Pederson for example hired the former Swedish prime minister, who is now also president of the European Socialists, as an adviser.
Indeed, the pesticide industry is part of a broader spectrum of lobby associations and corporate-sponsored think tanks. The Agri Food Chain Coalition (AFCC) for instance coordinates position statements between agribusiness lobby associations for pesticides, animal feed, grain traders, and so forth. The European seed sector association (Euroseeds) has the same big corporate members as CropLife Europe, and also lobbied on the SUR pesticide reduction law.
And there is also FarmEurope, a self-declared ‘think tank’ that is funded by (among others) Bayer. It has called plans to halve pesticide use a “blind shot at EU farming”. French Renew MEP Irène Tolleret – known to be very opposed to the pesticide reduction law - called FarmEurope a “friend” with whom “we have numerous fights to carry out together still!” during a reception at the Italian embassy in September 2023.
Farm lobby group Copa-Cogeca strongly aligns its positions with the pesticide industry, even though farmers have different interests than pesticide sellers. As shown in CEO’s previous reporting, Copa-Cogeca and CropLife Europe coordinated their lobbying efforts in an attempt to delay the SUR by calling for “more impact data”.
A recent investigation by Lighthouse Reports revealed how Copa-Cogeca exaggerates the number of farmers it actually represents and how it promotes the interests of industrial farming operations over those of smaller enterprises and young farmers.
Industry lobbying campaign continued
In early 2022, the pesticide industry lobby realized that its strategy to delay the Farm to Fork pesticide reduction law by calling for a “cumulative” or “holistic” impact assessment had not led to immediate success.
Their fierce campaign involving various flawed corporate-sponsored ‘impact studies’ faced two major setbacks: in the fall of 2021, when the European Parliament continued to support the 50% pesticide reduction target; and in July 2022, when despite a few months delay due to the outbreak of Russia’s war on Ukraine, the European Commission was ready to publish its proposal containing the 50% reduction target.
Nonetheless, with huge budgets and flocks of lobbyists at their disposal, the pesticide lobby and their political allies continued their destructive campaign on two parallel tracks:
1. Delay and derail: the continuous drumbeat banging in the need for impact assessment for food security and farm productivity. This is a strategy to buy time, with the ultimate goal that the legislation is dumped.
2. Weaken and undermine: the repeated poking and challenging of the proposal with the aim of sabotaging its implementation. This strategy was fatal to the proposal for a directive on the sustainable use of pesticides in 2009, allowing damage to biodiversity and health to continue unhindered in the following years.
1. Delay and derail: intensifying calls for ‘more impact data’
Freedom of Information requests made by Corporate Europe Observatory provide evidence of how corporate lobbies made the strategic decision to keep up their drumbeat calling for more ‘impact assessment’, which they claimed was needed to address concerns about food security, especially in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They were joined by their political allies, notably conservative members of the European Parliament.
Looking back: industry’s ‘impact studies’ discredited
In 2021 and 2022, Corporate Europe Observatory published leaked internal lobby documents from farm lobby Copa-Cogeca and CropLife Europe. These documents showed how a coordinated series of ‘impact studies’ – largely funded by the agribusiness industry – were used to target various Green Deal files, including the pesticide reduction law.
For example, lobby groups CropLife Europe and CropLife International commissioned one such report from Wageningen Economic Research (part of Wageningen University). The title of Wageningen’s own press release announcing the report stated that EU Green Deal files like pesticide reduction would “probably lead to lower yields”. However, study author Johan Bremmer admitted that the Farm to Fork Strategy “is intended to achieve benefits in terms of climate and biodiversity” and that “these benefits are not part of this study’s scope”. In response, Wageningen University professor Jeroen Candel strongly criticized the ‘study’ for ignoring the consequences of no action being taken.
In their messaging, the lobby groups misled their political audience by not acknowledging the limitations to these studies; all of them failed to take crucial parameters that also impact food security into account, and they also neglected to factor in the value of the environmental benefits connected to the Farm to Fork targets.
Over the course of 2022, the industry’s frequent demands for more impact data on the SUR proposal started to result in more tangible successes:
April 2022: Copa-Cogeca argued to DG SANTE that the Green Deals’ objectives had been set pre-pandemic, and therefore did not take into account “Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and the continuous advance of climate change”. Furthermore, they claimed that the Farm to Fork Strategy “will undoubtedly affect EU production”. DG SANTE however countered that the “Green Deal objectives are more relevant than ever”, and pointed to an opinion from its own Chief Scientific Advisers stating that “business as usual will significantly endanger natural resources, our health, the climate, and the economy”.
- June 2022: CIBE, a lobby group of sugar beet processors and growers, told DG SANTE that the SUR proposal was a “denial of reality and not respectful to farmers who would be expected to bear income decrease”. They also hammered away on the alleged lack of “comprehensive impact assessment”.
- June 2022: At a CIBE congress, a Commission representative noted an intense level of pushback against the SUR proposal: “The host speaker was rather hostile” and focused on “only the negative messages” from the audience. Agriculture Commissioner Wojciechowski was also present at the June congress. CIBE wrote to him afterwards to thank him, recalling how the Commissioner had mentioned food security as a concern and reminding him that “we count on you to stay vigilant for the interests of EU farmers and growers” … “in the face of sometimes ideological political claims.”
- June 2022: At a meeting of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, conservative EPP group members like Pernilla Weiss (Denmark) and Christine Schneider (Germany) echoed the demand for more impact assessment for the sake of food security, and called for “precision farming” or new GMOs instead.
By this time, support among EU member states for the impact assessment demanded by industry was growing. Ten member states (Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) signed a statement listing "the impact of the war in Ukraine on global food security and the resulting threats to the European Union” as their main concern.
- At yet another (undated) meeting with the Commission, Copa-Cogeca’s leader Pekka Pessonen worried that more new legislation would risk pushing many farmers out of business. The Commission however replied that the sector’s sustainability and resilience remained a key goal “as it is essential for the survival of the sector long-term”.
- September 2022: Copa-Cogeca sent a position document to DG SANTE repeating the same arguments that had been extensively rebuked just one year earlier (see box ‘Looking back: industry’s ‘impact studies’ discredited’). They listed the various “impact studies” – mostly paid for and designed by industry – published in 2021, such as those from Wageningen Economic Research, the USDSA and COCERAL. Copa-Cogeca said that these “all point in a worrying direction”; agricultural production in the EU “will decline sharply”, prices and farmers' incomes “will be severely affected” and “environmental benefits will be very limited in terms of food security and sustainability due to offshoring effects to third countries”. These claims are all either untrue, unfounded or misleading, as had already been clearly demonstrated the previous year when they were published.
- September 2022: the lobby group Agriculture & Progress, representing “sugar beet growers, maize growers and sugar manufacturers”, called on the Commission to “evaluate the REAL impacts” [emphasis in original] of the Farm to Fork 50% pesticide reduction target. They told the Commission to “carefully assess the feasibility” as “the proposed targets should not endanger food security and resilience of the EU food system”.
- October 2022: Agriculture & Progress also asked for a meeting with Commissioner Kyriakides’ cabinet, saying that the SUR would “seriously impact the productivity and competitiveness of farmers and primary food processors, an impact that has not been evaluated properly”.
- 21 October 2022: This letter was followed by a meeting between Agriculture & Progress and one of Agriculture Commissioner Wojciechowski’s cabinet members. The lobby group claimed that the SUR proposal was “impossible to follow in reality”. The Commission however replied that “there is no good data to show progress already done by farmers” on pesticide reduction, and that the SUR proposal was therefore necessary.
- October 2022: Copa-Cogeca went on to write to DG Environment, arguing that the “Green Deal’s objectives were set in the pre-pandemic era, and, thus, did not factor in nor provide for the cumulative crises that have since hit us, namely Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and the continuous advance of climate change”. This input followed the same mantras of “sufficient alternatives are not available”, “impact assessment is insufficient’, “unrealistic targets” and an overly wide definition of ‘sensitive areas’.
- 27 October 2022: The preparatory briefing for a meeting between Bayer lobbyists and the head of cabinet for the Agriculture Commissioner Wojciechowski equally featured the issue of impact assessment. In this briefing, the Commission defended its position, stressing that “the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine does not make it any less necessary to address the use and risk of pesticides and protect health and the environment”.
- November 2022: A lobby letter repeating these same points was sent to several Commission DGs by 17 associations including Copa-Cogeca, the pesticide lobby CropLife, and the Euroseeds seed lobby. The letter was also signed by numerous other industry associations, including potato and vegetable oil traders Europatat and Fediol; potato and tomato processors EUPPA and TomatoEurope; animal feed lobby FEFAC; and the European Snacks Association. The goal for these associations is to purchase large volumes from farmers at low prices and to then resell them with hefty profit margins. Their interest lies thus in ever-increasing productivity with no concessions to the costs to farmers’ health, food security or long-term sustainability.
By the end of 2022, the champagne could be opened: a group of 15 agriculture ministers echoed the pesticide industry’s demand for more ‘impact data’ from the Commission.
The result was a critical delay of six months in the negotiations on these key topics, which ultimately means less time to satisfactorily conclude the SUR pesticide reduction law before the next EU elections in 2024.
Even after the Commission started its work to collect more impact data, the industrial drumbeat to delay and derail the legislation was relentless. By March 2023, a group of conservative MEPs from the EPP group had taken the lead in both the environment and agriculture committees to further stall and undermine the SUR negotiations, using ‘impact assessment’ and ‘impact on food security’ as pretexts:
- Norbert Lins, the chair of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee (AGRI), declared that this committee would put their opinion on the SUR on hold until the Commission had delivered the additional impact data demanded by the Council.
- On 2 March 2023, the European Parliament’s environment committee discussed the report on the SUR proposal by Green rapporteur Sarah Wiener. A group of nine MEPs from the right-wing EPP, ECR and ID groups (including EPPers Alexander Bernhuber, Franc Bogovič and Christine Schneider) forcibly attacked Wiener’s report, focusing heavily on the ‘impact on food security’ argument.
The arguments used by these MEPs were analyzed in detail and debunked in a joint NGO briefing published by the Save Bees and Farmers European Citizens’ Initiative. The briefing stated that “there is little evidence to support the narrative that reducing pesticides and greening agriculture threatens food security. On the other hand, there is a broad scientific consensus that, given the environmental emissions of nitrogen, greenhouse gases and pesticides, sticking to the current input-intensive agricultural system would contribute significantly to exceeding planetary boundaries and threaten food production. For these reasons most statements under scrutiny were factually incorrect and/or misleading”.
- In September 2023, BASF presented yet another 'impact study', just like one of the earlier ones carried out by HFFA research. This one looked at the impact of the SUR on biodiversity on the farm, and claimed that the SUR would be detrimental to it. These claims were equally rebutted in the NGO briefing mentioned above.
- At a press conference on 6 October 2023, as reported in AGRA FACTS, Copa-Cogeca president Christiane Lambert complained that as the Commission hadn’t done the studies on farm productivity, “we carried out studies ourselves ... There are things being proposed which go too far, which aren’t realistic, which are disconnected from the reality of agricultural life.”
‘Impact assessment’ campaign moves to EU Member States
In the next phase of the industry lobby campaign, the focus shifted to the national level with the use of local ‘impact studies’.
- May 2023: The German member of Copa-Cogeca, the Deutsche Bauernverband (DBV), published its own ‘impact study’, commissioned from the Fachhochschule Suedwestfalen University of Applied Sciences. Following in the footsteps of the previous impact studies, this study ignored the multiple benefits of the SUR proposal for the environment, long-term food security and human health. It also failed to acknowledge that pesticide reduction is not done in isolation but should be accompanied by the adoption of alternative practices. Friedrich Merz, the former BlackRock executive and leader of the CDU/CSU fraction in the Bundestag, was quick to use the ‘study’ to ask no less than 19 questions to the German government on 2 June 2023.
- In July 2023, the agriculture committee in the EP was scheduled to vote on their opinion on the SUR, but EPP MEP Franc Bogovič created a delay with his last minute request to postpone the vote to October. Politico exposed that Bogovič had met with the pesticide lobby group CropLife Europe just the previous day. Bogovič however maintained that the reason for his request was “because he needed more time to assess the results of a study he had commissioned from the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia on the impact of the pesticide reduction law on farming in his country”.
- The Polish pesticide lobby group PSOR – a member of CropLife Europe - also used the abovementioned ‘impact studies’, including the one by USDA and Wageningen University & Research. The group also orchestrated its own ‘study’ entitled "The impact of the European Green Deal on Polish agriculture", written by a consortium of authors from various research institutes and published in June 2022. However, the ‘study’ was commissioned by PSOR, the fertilizer giant Yara and the Polish Association for Agricultural Services (Polsor). In its communication on the report, PSOR failed to mention that they co-funded the study.
Pesticide proponents still not satisfied with new impact data
On 6 July 2023, the Commission published the much-debated additional impact data as demanded by the Council. It concluded that: (a) the need to reduce the use and risk of pesticides is unchanged by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; (b) the SUR proposal would not jeopardize food security but improve it in the long term; and (c) the aims of the proposal could be achieved at relatively low financial cost for farmers.
Unsurprisingly, the SUR critics (the very same ones who succeeded in delaying the SUR negotiations) were not pleased with these conclusions. For example, Bayer-sponsored ‘think tank’ FarmEurope expressed their disappointment in the additional impact data, complaining that the Commission neither presented new studies nor carried out additional quantitative analysis.
The Austrian minister of agriculture, who had been among the group asking for more impact data, was also clearly not satisfied. An Austrian diplomat in Brussels commented that “for the reduction targets and their impact on sensitive areas, we need more and more conclusive studies and data in order to really make decisions on a quantitative impact”.
But were they being sincere? In August 2023, Politico quoted an unnamed EU diplomat as saying that the Council’s stalling tactics had been “mere power plays to show the Commission who's boss”. This would imply that EU Member States had forced the Commission to do an extra impact assessment without even believing that it was truly necessary.
At any rate, the path was clear for the kick off of the SUR negotiations at this point, and this meant that it was time for industry to ramp up their second strategy in motion: to weaken and undermine the SUR from the inside.
2. Weaken and undermine
Back in July 2022, with a published Commission proposal on the table, the industry lobby intensified its parallel strategy to weaken and undermine from the inside. Their goal was to debilitate the law and its implementation, while at the same time pushing their own (false) ‘technofix’ solutions. The key items in the lobby attacks included the mandatory nature and ambition of the proposed reduction targets; the ban on pesticide use in sensitive areas; whether Integrated Pest Management would be mandatory or voluntary; and the financial support for farmers to make the transition to low-pesticide production.
Immediately following the publication of the Commission proposal, the pesticide industry and Copa-Cogeca each held meetings to prepare their responses. On 8 July 2022, no less than 60 Copa-Cogeca members fired away questions to DG SANTE officials.
The following week the pesticide and food industries took a turn by hosting a “SUR breakfast” with the Commission at the offices of public affairs lobby firm Rud Pedersen. In addition to pesticide firms Syngenta, Corteva and Bayer, spiritsEUROPE, the European Landowners Organization, Pepsi and Novozymes attended the gathering.
Pesticide reduction targets: lower and voluntary, or impossible to measure?
Pesticide reduction targets are of course at the core of the SUR proposal, and therefore also the focus of the counter-lobby.
There are two targets: the first is to reduce the use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50% by 2030 and the second to reduce the use of more hazardous pesticides, also by 50% by 2030. For both, an EU-wide target as well as a national target would be set for each EU Member State.
- April 2022: Copa-Cogeca sent a position paper to the Commission stating that “arbitrary reduction targets” would have a “negative impact foreseen by scientific studies”. While recognizing that it is EU farmers who “have an overriding interest in ensuring sustainable production while taking care of the environment and consumer demands”, they claimed that the reduction targets would be “hard to achieve” in the current period.
- May 2022: BASF asked DG SANTE in a meeting whether the pesticide reduction target was set “with a specific goal to achieve as regard biodiversity”, stressing “the importance of defining specific outcome or results that these targets need to achieve”. This is an absurd demand given the amount of evidence on the rapid decline of biodiversity, as well as the link to pesticide use.
- June 2022: Anika Gatt Seretny of CropLife Europe told Investigate Europe that “mandatory reduction targets are not realistic”, and that they “are going to be very hard to achieve and they could have unintended, negative consequences”. She pointed to “weather patterns” and “changes in climate” as these potential consequences, while completely ignoring the extent to which their own sector contributes to the climate crisis.
- September 2022: Copa-Cogeca again claimed that the SUR would put the European food supply in jeopardy, and that “the reduction targets for the use and risk of chemical pesticides by 2030 are therefore clearly overambitious and irresponsible considering the current socio-economic and political challenges”.
- October 2022: Copa-Cogeca wrote to DG Environment in October 2022, arguing that the proposed targets were “unrealistic”.
While the targets were being attacked from all sides, the Commission itself had built in a major flaw into the SUR proposal. To measure actual progress in pesticide reduction, it proposed a methodology based on the so-called ‘harmonised risk indicator 1’ (HRI-1). This particular indicator is highly unreliable however, as it systematically underestimates the toxicity of synthetic pesticides compared to naturally occurring ones by orders of magnitude. In addition, it "creates the illusion of pesticide reduction on paper, while pesticide use and risk in the field may even increase," according to Helmut Burtscher-Schaden of Friends of the Earth Austria and spokesperson for Save Bees and Farmers.
The pesticide industry on the other hand seemed content with the proposed indicator, calling it an “appropriate way to measure the risk reduction of pesticides". Unsurprisingly, this indicator was not a prominent feature in their lobbying communications.
SUR rapporteur Sarah Wiener (Greens) corrected this major flaw in her report on the SUR. She was unable to find a majority among the MEPs on the Environment Committee, as not only the Conservative MEPs but also the Liberals had spoken out against correcting the faulty indicator, according to NGO sources. As a result, the compromise text that emerged from the vote in the EP Environment Committee in October 2023 is still based on a flawed and deceptive indicator that makes it impossible to measure any real improvements for health and the environment.
The Spanish Presidency of the EU pricked up its ears at industry’s attacks on the targets. In September 2023, they shared a note to Member States asking if pesticide reduction targets should be legally binding at the EU and national levels. Politico’s Morning Agriculture & Food newsletter reported on 16 October 2023 that 11 Member States demanded that binding national reduction targets be scrapped. These countries were Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
But it was about to get even worse. The SUR also contains a second 50% target – which does not suffer from the same flawed risk indicator as the first one – for halving the use of more hazardous pesticides. The next step in the process would normally be the translation of both targets into national targets. However, as reported in Politico, the Spanish EU Presidency proposed at the end of October that the second national target be scrapped, thus ”keeping only the one for reducing the use and risk of all chemical pesticides”. At first glance, the motives of this move are difficult to comprehend. The more dangerous pesticides are the so-called 'Candidates for Substitution' and their use should, according to the EU Pesticide Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009, shrink at least to the same extent as the more moderately dangerous pesticides. So why remove a target that would anyhow be automatically achieved?
One possible answer is quite sinister: as the target for the more hazardous pesticides can only be achieved if there is a reduction in general pesticide use, those who oppose any reduction in pesticide use are pushing to discard this second target altogether.
Watering down sensitive areas
One area of contention was the definition of a ‘sensitive area’. The SUR initially aimed at a complete ban on pesticide use in these areas, which include diverse spaces such as urban green, Natura 2000 areas and other ecologically vulnerable zones. This ban would obviously affect EU Member States in very different ways, and it also provided a useful angle of attack for the pro-pesticide lobby throughout 2022:
- September 2022: The lobby group Agriculture & Progress called the ban on the use of pesticides in sensitive areas “unrealistic as it would jeopardize a significant acreage of arable crop land and is therefore not acceptable”.
- 11 October 2022: Bayer, Corteva and Syngenta were joined by seed producers Limagrain and KWS Saat at a meeting with the Commission where they argued that seed production “is taking place mainly in sensitive areas” and that the ban on pesticide use in these areas would therefore have an “adverse impact”. They claimed that any negative effect on the quality of seed would “lead to increased need of the use of pesticides on crops”.
- 6 December 2022: DG SANTE met with a CropLife lobbyist accompanied by a lobbyist from the EPPA consultancy. They suggested specific wording on sensitive areas to “allay stakeholder concerns” concerning this provision. The CropLife lobbyist said that he had “collected some data on the possible impact” of such a prohibition and would raise this “in national impact assessments”.
- In 2022 and 2023, BASF made noise around another ‘study’ it funded carried out again by HFFA, claiming that bans on spraying in sensitive areas would actually harm biodiversity. HFFA also carried out one of the earlier industry impact studies, and is frequently used by pesticide and other agribusiness companies.
In mid-November 2022, aiming to avoid a Council demand for extra impact data that would cause considerable delay, the Commission made some important concessions on this point by specifically: moving away from a total ban towards a restricted use of the least harmful pesticides; allowing most pesticides in agriculture in ecologically sensitive areas, including all pesticides used in organic agriculture; and reducing the scope of the definition of sensitive areas to focus on the most relevant areas.
As we have already seen, these concessions – made without any involvement of the European Parliament – proved to be of no avail, as the Council still demanded the impact assessment.
Industry squeezes out role for biological solutions
One argument against the SUR that the pesticide industry and its political allies keep repeating as an argument against mandatory pesticide reduction is that “farmers need enough options in their toolbox to fight pests and diseases”. In June 2023, lobbyist Anika Gatt Seretny from CropLife Europe repeated on Politico’s Morning Agri that “EU farmers must have access to a full toolbox of crop protection solutions since pests and diseases are a constant threat in food production".
Lobbyists also claim that there are no alternatives to synthetic pesticides for farmers, or that they are insufficiently available. This was the gist of the recent argument to the Commission by CIBE, the lobby of sugar beet growers, along with the sugar manufacturers’ lobby CEFS and the lobby firm EPPA.
However the SUR law is precisely what is needed to unlock biocontrols for farmers, and lobby groups like CropLife Europe, CIBE and CEFS are actively obstructing the implementation of this agreement.
Indeed, the pesticide lobby’s concerns about the lack of tools for farmers to fight pests seems rather hypocritical. Former IBMA Director David Cary told CEO that in the period when the EU pesticide authorization law (1107/2009) was negotiated, the pesticide lobby group CropLife (then called ECPA), successfully lobbied to avoid the strong promotion of biocontrols.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) was intended to act as a strong stimulus for the reduction of pesticide use over the past years, and should have spurred the market availability of biological solutions. Indeed, IPM has been a legal requirement for farmers since 2014 (Directive 2009/128/EC), but its implementation has been an utter failure due to the lack of clear targets, measures and timetables.
In 2014, PAN Europe and IBMA called on the European Commission to push EU Member States to come up with clear targets, measures and timetables. That same year, IBMA together with farm lobby group Copa-Cogeca also wrote that “biocontrol manufacturers have been facing issues in bringing biocontrol solutions to the market through unduly long regulatory processes and delays”.
Therefore, in 2017 the European Parliament asked the Commission to take action by fast tracking the authorisation of low-risk pesticides of biological origin. In January 2019, the European Parliament’s PEST committee, investigating the flaws in EU pesticide regulation following the Monsanto Papers scandal, repeated these calls. One month later, in yet another resolution, the European Parliament regretted “the overall degree of progress in implementation by the Member States” to unlock the potential of biocontrol tools.
But inaction by Commission and Member States prevailed, to the extent that IBMA lodged a complaint with the EU Ombudsman in February 2019, accusing the EU Commission of maladministration.
The pesticide industry’s current tactic is to downplay the potential of biological solutions by portraying them primarily as complementary to synthetic pesticides.
This can be seen in the following examples:
- BASF told DG SANTE in May 2022 that while the role of biological solutions will continue to grow, they “cannot constitute the ultimate solutions for the reduction of use of pesticides target and for ensuring a stable level of productivity”.
- Corteva adopted the slogan “Embrace Balance”, implying that biological solutions should just be “part of an integrated solution”, while Bayer argued that “they can complement each other for optimal benefit within conventional farming systems”.
In July 2023, the NGO PAN Europe called out the fact that the Swedish presidency of the EU had severely watered down key provisions on IPM by annulling binding crop-specific rules. “Effective and enforceable IPM crop-specific rules for at least 90% of the utilized agricultural area are a prerequisite for the SUR to lead to effective changes in agricultural practices”, commented PAN Europe.
Pushing digital tools and deregulating new GMOs
Instead of reduction targets for synthetic pesticides, corporations fought long and hard to promote their own technologies (digital tools and new GM seeds) as solutions (or ‘new tools in the toolbox’). While not very credible coming from the very same actors that make immense profits from pesticide sales, these technologies also carry the risk that just a few companies will further dominate the food chain. Besides, new GM seeds are not without danger to health and the environment (see box below).
- March 2022: Corteva wrote to the cabinet of Commission Vice-President Timmermans saying that “innovation will be a critical tool”. As it partners with farmers “by supplying innovative seeds and crop protection”, the company insisted that it had a “positive role to play in delivering on the promises … of sustainable agricultural production”.
- 26 April 2022: Copa-Cogeca told DG AGRI that “the keywords for the revision of SUD should be flexibility, research, training, and precision farming” and that simple “guidelines” for Integrated Pest Management would be a better approach “than imposing a forced, random and non-science-based quantitative reduction in the use of plant protection products”.
- June 2022: CropLife Europe told DG SANTE that they thought a “clearer and more positive representation of the role technology could play” was needed.
- August 2022: Bayer wrote to the Agriculture Commissioner’s cabinet to request a meeting for a high-level delegation from the seed industry (Bayer, KWS, Limagrain, Syngenta and Corteva) and the seed industry association Euroseeds to “discuss the contribution of innovative plant breeding to food security and sustainability to achieve the green deal objectives”.
- September 2022: Agriculture & Progress argued that under Integrated Pest Management, new GMOs (also called New Genomic Techniques, or NGTs) should be supported and promoted. They claimed that new GMOs and “their potential to contribute to reduction targets” should be explicitly mentioned as viable alternatives to chemical plant production products. Therefore, they said, the GMO regulations should be abolished and new GMOs should be deregulated – or in their wording, should be covered by an “appropriate and fit for purpose legislation”.
- Early in 2023, in a meeting with DG Agriculture and DG SANTE, Copa-Cogeca said that farmers need “toolboxes alternative to the use of pesticides”.
- A CropLife lobbyist reported back from the association’s annual conference in March 2023 that: “Any goal of reducing plant protection products must be accompanied by investment in alternative solutions and digital and precision agriculture.”
Deregulating new GM seeds: same lobbyists, same corporate interests
The European Commission (DG SANTE) published a proposal on 5 July 2023 that would deregulate new GMOs (products from genome editing techniques like CRISPR-Cas) to a large degree. This would mean no safety tests for health and the environment, the loss of consumer freedom of choice, the further endangering of farmers’ autonomy, and the undermining of the GM-free food sector.
This proposal followed many years of lobby pressure by the pesticide and biotech seed corporations, aided by GM researchers who often have ties with industry. They succeeded in convincing the Commission (notably DG SANTE) that GM crops made with genome editing would do what old GMOs have never managed to do: contribute to a more sustainable agriculture.
Pesticide expert Lars Neumaister concluded in a report for NGO foodwatch that the new GMOs currently in the pipeline do not show much potential for pesticide reduction. On the contrary, their widespread adoption will rather lead to more uniformity in the field, which is a main driver of pesticide use as it makes crops vulnerable to pests.
In March 2023, a few MEPs increased the pressure on the Commission by saying they would not support the SUR if the Commission did not come forward with a proposal to deregulate new GM crops. Politico reported that Renew’s Jan Huitema said that his group wanted ‘conditionality guarantees’ for the use of new genomic techniques (new GMOs) when negotiating the SUR proposal.
The extent to which the SUR has been counteracted and delayed has a parallel in the extent to which this deregulation proposal is being speedily pushed forward. The Spanish EU Presidency, the rapporteur in the European Parliament (Jessica Polfjärd, EPP), and the Belgian Agriculture Minister David Clarinval are all hellbent on rushing the proposal through before the EU elections. The Commission’s disastrous proposal may get even worse in the process.
It should be recalled that the reason European agriculture is still so reliant on synthetic pesticides today is that the previous law, the Sustainable Use Directive (SUD), was not properly implemented by EU Member States. Accordingly, undermining the proper implementation of this new pesticide reduction law is another tactic used by industry:
- Just before the publication of the proposal for the new law, a group of CropLife lawyers asked DG SANTE how they planned to ensure that EU countries implemented the targets “should they become legally binding”, and what the penalties for non-compliance would be.
- In July 2022, just after the SUR proposal was launched, agribusiness lobby group COCERAL asked DG SANTE whether “derogations to targets following crisis such as pest explosion or war like Ukraine” [sic] would be considered. DG SANTE rightly replied that the targets themselves are long term, and that therefore no derogation would be considered.
Derogations to bans on individual pesticides have been a very successful strategy for enabling corporations to keep selling them. However, the European Court ruled in January 2023 that an end should be put to this practice following a case launched by PAN Europe and other organisations.
- Another important factor in achieving any measure of pesticide reduction is for farmers to have access to technical advisors that do not have commercial links to the pesticide business. Copa-Cogeca expressed its worry to the Commission that with the SUR, “cooperative advisors are not considered as independent” and that there would therefore not be enough advisors. DG Agriculture confirmed that “the issue of independence is sensitive” but that they would still aim to ensure that farmers have access to sufficient advisory services.
Blocking public funds for pesticide reduction
At the same time the Von der Leyen Commission launched the EU Farm to Fork Strategy in May 2020, a key element of its Green Deal, the CAP farm subsidy scheme was also being negotiated. As CEO reported back then, big farming lobby group Copa-Cogeca, together with pesticides and food industry giants, succeeded in ensuring that the new CAP programme was not aligned with the Farm to Fork Strategy.
Farmers – who have been pushed into pesticide-dependent practices for decades – need support in shifting to other practices, as well as market regulation. However, the lobby group that is supposed to defend their interests – Copa-Cogeca – together with its political friends in the EP Agriculture Committee, once again lobbied to prevent the spending of farm subsidies to promote a just transition:
- In October 2022, Copa-Cogeca wrote to the Commission reiterating its opposition to the financial support of the transition through EU taxpayer-funded CAP farm subsidies: “Making CAP voluntary funds mandatory for the transition is not the way forward”. The bottom line is that Copa-Cogeca does not find the current situation, in which CAP money is mainly spent to line the pockets of big land owners and corporations, problematic.
- Ironically, in a meeting with DG SANTE on 28 April 2022, Bayer suggested that public money –including from the CAP – was needed “for the use of innovative tools contributing to reducing the use of chemical pesticides (NGTs, biopesticides, precision farming)”. This would imply that public funds would be spent on promoting Bayer’s patented seeds!
The EP agriculture committee, led by Clara Aguilera of the S&D group on this topic and supported by right-wingers EPP and ECR, voted on 9 October 2023 to block the use of CAP funds to support farms in the reduction of pesticides. Many organisations strongly opposed this move by the agriculture committee, pointing out in an open letter that budget has already been allocated in the current CAP to support farmers in the reduction of pesticide use.
Pesticide industry sponsors media to greenwash its image
Big pesticide corporations have invested heavily in greenwashing in order to salvage their increasingly damaged reputations. One way that they are doing so is by sponsoring media content.
Bayer, for instance, is a frequent client of Politico EU’s Media Solutions. The company sponsored Politico’s 2023 Live Future of Food and Farming Summit in Paris, is a regular sponsor of Politico Pro newsletters, and funds events in their "Drive sustainable progress" campaign. The amounts of money involved are not declared. For instance, the amount spent by Bayer on the latter campaign is not specified in the EU Transparency Register.
Politico Studio, another so-called media solution ”helps brands and organisations connect with the most influential audiences in Europe in an engaging and insightful way”. In 2023, they featured an article entitled “Can innovation help farmers adapt to climate change?”. The announcement that this piece relied on ‘sponsored content by Bayer’ was not very visible.
It was said that for this article, Politico journalists travelled to three farms in Germany, Poland and Spain to talk with farmers about their climate-related challenges and the ‘innovative tools’ they are using to address them.
But while the reader would assume that these farmers are independently choosing certain tools or practices, what was not mentioned anywhere in the article is that all three farms are part of the Bayer ForwardFarming initiative. As explained on its website, Bayer set up this initiative to showcase the adoption of "modern tools and practices".
In March and again in September 2023, BASF sponsored online debates about the SUR organized by the German newspaper Wochenblatt. The first one was framed around ‘farmers’ frustration’ resulting from political decisions leading to reductions: fewer pesticides, fewer fertilizers. ”And all of this in a favorable agricultural location like Germany, with a growing population worldwide. Is this a practical strategy for the future?” Both events featured a speaker from BASF.
Syngenta, for its part, promoted its ‘Agcelerators – people transforming agriculture’ programme with a launch in Euractiv. There, Alexandra Brand of Syngenta wrote: “I believe it is time that we shine a spotlight on the people transforming agriculture, to help accelerate change, inspire the next generation of innovation..." But most of these ‘agcelerators’ are simply Syngenta’s own employees, or farmers promoting approaches favoured by the company such as ‘regenerative agriculture’.
In a similar way, CropLife Europe sponsored an article in Brussels Times (a newspaper read by EU expats in Brussels) in June 2023 calling for a “new paradigm for agriculture in Europe”, a paradigm that is essential to “speed up innovation and access for farmers to new technologies". And in September, the Financial Times organized a live event, in partnership with Corteva, on industry’s supposedly “vital role” in delivering the EU climate objectives.
The pesticide industry comes up with many other greenwashing activities.
Croplife in a 2021 press release also boasted about having trained 112.193 farmers, pesticide users and others on IPM, operator safety as well as environment protection when using pesticides. “In just the first year, the industry has reached 11% of its target of training 1 million farmers by 2030”, they stated. In reality, CropLife’s “trainings” for farmers and other users of pesticides were a pitiful “minimum of 45 minutes for face to face trainings and 30 minutes for online (virtual trainings)” – so hardly any real training to speak of.And in a meeting with DG SANTE in January 2022, Syngenta presented “sustainability criteria” to guide research and development efforts, developed in collaboration with US organization The Nature Conservancy (TNC). According to its website, TNC partners with a wide range of Big Polluters including also Shell, Bunge and Dow. Despite Syngenta’s track record of profit-making from environmentally harmful practices, TNC’s states it has worked with Syngenta "for over a decade on projects that support sustainable agricultural practices".
All these events and partnerships contribute to the image that the pesticides giants are part of the solution to the interconnected biodiversity and climate crises, rather than at the source of them. Although their greenwashing activities are often framed around climate change and soil health, they essentially promote pesticides and patented GM seeds.
Climate crisis used to push herbicide-tolerant crops in Europe
Their argument is that climate change generates more and new pests, leading to a greater need for pesticides; and that what they call ‘conservation agriculture’ – using weedkillers like glyphosate to clear fields – benefits both climate and soil as it replaces mechanized tilling. It is important to note that no-till and low-till practices that do not use herbicides already exist. Bayer is closely involved with the promotion of this concept of conservation agriculture, along with other big pesticide producers and machinery and fertilizer corporations.
Corporate reports like this one from Corteva (see p.20), show that instead of a “paradigm change” these corporations are merely interested in introducing herbicide-tolerant crops – often made resistant to multiple herbicides at the same time – to be marketed on a large scale in the EU, and even considered as ‘sustainable’.
Corteva lists various herbicide-tolerant GM crops like soy and sorghum, with names like Roundup Ready and LibertyLink, as meeting several “sustainability criteria”. Bayer too is boasting that it is “leading the industry with tolerances to six herbicide classes expected to be launched by 2030” in reference to its soy with herbicide-tolerant traits.
This shows once more that these corporations have no intention to contribute to pesticide-reduction whatsoever.
Furthermore, with the Commission’s controversial plan to deregulate GM crops created with genome editing, such crops might come to market in the EU without any safety assessment or consumer labeling. This also promotes very unsustainable farming practices – precisely the opposite of what the EU Farm to Fork Strategy intended.
Final round: pesticide lobby targets EU countries and European Parliament
With the SUR proposal on the table and the extra impact data delivered, the pesticide lobby’s full focus is currently on EU Member State governments and the European Parliament. Both will be able to make changes to the Commission’s proposal and will then have to negotiate towards a final outcome.
As we have already seen, the pesticide lobby often enjoys good relations with various agriculture ministers at the national level and the same seems to apply to some permanent representations.
Take Poland, for instance. An official from the Polish representation in Brussels, Sebastian Żwan, was a speaker at the annual conference of CropLife Europe in March 2023. He addressed the room full of lobbyists in the Brussels Hilton, saying that “a little more realism" needed to be brought into the EU pesticide reduction ambition and affirmed that "we will do it”. He then reportedly said he would declare “war” on the SUR.
The doors of the Spanish Permanent Representation also appear to be open to pesticides industry lobbyists. Indeed, the deputy ambassador to the EU met with representatives of Bayer on 23 February 2023. In October 2022, a high-level official of the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture spoke at an event co-organized by the Spanish pesticide lobby, stating bluntly that “Nobody is asking us to reduce use, but to reduce impact. We don't have to halve use, we have to reduce the use of high-risk products”.
Belgium is under particular pressure because it will hold the EU Presidency from January 2024, and will be in charge of finalizing the SUR and several other topics like new GMOs.
In this case as well, the Belgian Federal Minister of Agriculture David Clarinval has opened his arms to the pesticide lobby. In 2021, Pesticide Action Network complained because he hired a former pesticide lobbyist from Belplant (then called Phytofar) for a position in his cabinet. In May 2023, he attended Belplant’s general assembly held in a beautiful castle in Namur, on the theme of the SUR. The minister echoed the pesticide lobby’s messages that laws must be “ambitious but realistic“, making reference to food security concerns.
Permanent representations: untransparent lobbying targets
Each Member State has a permanent representation in Brussels where its diplomats represent their national governments in the obscure system of EU power. Whilst the Commission is subject to transparency laws that make it compulsory for civil servants to display some information about the content and frequency of their lobby meetings, national diplomats working in the Council are not subject to such obligations.
Out of 27 separate requests tabled by CEO in October 2023 for lists of meetings since June 2022 between national diplomats and Brussels lobbyists on the pesticides legislation SUR, only nine even just answered.
Sweden, Estonia and Belgium were the only ones providing a list. CropLife Europe had two meetings with Estonian diplomats (Estonia being critical of the SUR) and one with Belgian diplomats (with Belgium still in support, and taking up the EU Presidency in January 2024).
Denmark, Czech Republic and Bulgaria did not deliver, claiming that such a list did not exist and that they were not prepared to make one. Bulgaria and the Czech Republic emphasized that they have no EU transparency obligations.
Lithuania and Finland declared that no such meetings had taken place.
Germany responded that the costs for such a request might run up to 500 euros, a practice which poses a huge barrier to transparency.
Many others, including France, Spain, Italy and Poland, did not respond at all.
Unfortunately, CEO’s demands for more information on the content of those meetings have either been refused or were left unanswered.
Conservative MEPs rallying for the pesticide industry
A recent article in DeSmog concluded that six EPP MEPs (Norbert Lins, Alexander Bernhuber, Herbert Dorfmann, Christine Schneider, Franc Bogovič and Anne Sander) met with industry-linked groups eight times as often as they did with NGOs defending public interests. Furthermore, since 2020, they have joined numerous events organized, or sponsored by, agribusiness lobby groups. Lins and Dorfmann alone joined over 15 events.
One MEP, Franc Bogovič, who sold pesticides for a living for 16 years, held 13 meetings with industry on the pesticide reduction law compared with just three meetings with two NGOs. It was Bogovič who requested the postponement of the SUR vote in the agriculture committee from July to October 2023. The day before he made the request, he had met with the pesticide lobby group CropLife Europe.
The EPP shadow rapporteur for the SUR is MEP Alexander Bernhuber. Links between Copa-Cogeca and Bernhuber are multiple and close. The Austrian farming union ÖBB is the dominant organisation within Copa-Cogeca’s Austrian national member. ÖBB is part of the conservative party in Austria, the Österreichische Volkspartei (part of the EPP in the European Parliament), and the ÖBB union pays for office space for MEP Bernhuber. He is a member of the executive committee for one of ÖBB’s nine branches, and was also employed as a paid consultant between 2017 and 2019 (earning between €1,000 and €5,000 per month). Bernhuber was the only MEP speaking at the 2023 CropLife Europe annual conference on SUR, together with Copa-Cogeca. According to CropLife’s top lobbyist, the discussion highlighted that “any goal of reducing plant protection products must be accompanied by investment in alternative solutions and digital and precision agriculture.”
Of course, some members of other political groupings on the right in the European Parliament, like ECR and Renew, also have industry’s back. Following the request of chemicals company BASF, MEP Mazaly Aguilar of the Spanish far-right party Vox recorded a video giving a definition of agricultural sustainability that perfectly fit into the company’s playbook. And French MEP Irène Tolleret of Renew, who has vocally opposed the SUR, seems to be close friends with Bayer-sponsored think-tank FarmEurope.
Final showdown: what will be left of Farm to Fork?
Just before the summer of 2023, the long-awaited Nature Restoration Law, part of the Green Deal, was subject to a bitter attack by conservatives in the Parliament. The EPP leadership, apparently moving into election mode, was hoping to win back the ‘rural vote’ by appearing as non-green as possible.
To some extent, this campaign had been set in motion one year earlier by the German conservatives in CDU/CSU. In April 2022, they had launched a paper calling for a moratorium on any new Green Deal files, as well as the halt to a host of social topics including an increased minimum wage.
The ensuing media battle spurred right-wing politicians to jump on the bandwagon. French Prime Minister Minister Macron (Liberals/Renew) called for a ‘pause’ on EU regulations, which he later clarified should not apply to plans already in process. But it was still enough to encourage Belgian Prime Minister De Croo (Liberals/Renew) to echo the message.
And this was just the tip of the iceberg. As we have seen, the SUR is under ferocious attack and numerous other Green Deal promises have been derailed altogether: the food systems law, a ban on the export of forbidden pesticides, animal welfare legislation, and so forth.
And the situation will only deteriorate as the next EU elections approach. A sign of this downward turn was given by Von der Leyen, who belongs to the conservative EPP group, in her State of the Union speech on 13 September. She specifically thanked farmers in her address, following a complaint by Copa-Cogeca that their role had not been acknowledged the previous year. She did not, however, give a single mention to the EU Farm to Fork Strategy.
With many files being derailed under the pretext of ‘lack of time’, Von der Leyen suddenly announced that a ‘strategic dialogue’ on farming would still be held in 2023 to set the direction for the new CAP negotiations. Immediately following this news, Copa-Cogeca organized a press conference on 6 October to set the tone for “major European agricultural issues towards the end of the current mandate” and listed the SUR, the new GMO legislation and the Nature Restoration Law as examples of policies having their special attention.
Many corporate lobbyists and their political allies in Brussels are prepared to let crucial Farm to Fork proposals, including the pesticide reduction law, go down the drain. They knowingly and willfully block opportunities for societal change towards a safer future for people and the environment.
All of this happens largely out of sight of people in Europe. With the European elections coming up in June 2024, voters should be aware how their governments and MEPs acted on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy, and the reduction of pesticides.
This obstruction by the pesticide lobby should be seen in the same light as the completely reckless behavior regarding climate change by the fossil fuel industry and climate deniers. People should no longer have to tolerate the fact that corporations like Bayer, BASF, Syngenta and Corteva enjoy such easy access to decision making spaces, and firewall measures should be put in place to keep big polluters out of the political arenas where crucial decisions for our future are being taken.