environment politics sustainability

The EU pesticides debate – two sides to every story

“Holland’s iconic tulip fields may not bloom for much longer if EU proposals to restrict pesticide approvals are accepted.” So begins a recent press release from the Crop Protection Association. “If the hazard-based criteria put forward by the Parliament to reduce pesticide availability were accepted, there would be yield reductions of 50 to 100% for a range of Dutch crops including tulip bulbs, roses, cucumbers and brussels sprouts. This means they could no longer be grown profitably.”

“Politicians must tighten up EU pesticide laws to protect our health and to preserve biodiversity” says Manfred Krautter, Greenpeace chemist. “Pesticides that can cause cancer, alter genes, and damage the reproductive, endocrine or nervous system must no longer be authorised. Pesticides that harm bees or life in aquatic environments must be banned from the market. The chemical industry is now using its significant lobbying power to try to secure authorisation even for toxins like these.”

https://i0.wp.com/www.treehugger.com/tulips.jpg Here are two sides to a current EU debate. On the one hand, pesticide residues have been found in almost half of all supermarket fruit and veg (pdf), with serious health implications. On the other hand, our agriculture is so dependent on pesticides that to ban some chemicals will result in enormous financial distress to the farming industry.

To me, there’s no question about it – the pesticides need to be banned, but I wanted to post this story because it’s an important reminder of just how difficult these decisions are.

  1. Every move towards sustainability will require a sacrifice of some sort, in some sector, and the lobbyists will fight it. ( I love the way the group quoted here have called themselves the Crop Protection Association, rather than the Pro-Pesticides Lobby) We cannot always promise a win-win outcome.
  2. Profit tends to trump environmental concerns a lot of the time, and this is a perfect example of why this can’t be allowed to happen. It is sad for the tulip growers, but the health risks and loss of biodiversity are unacceptable. When a business model has been proven to be unsustainable, it must be discontinued, whatever the cost.
  3. We need a holistic approach to the environment. We cannot demand an immediate end to unsustainable practice without caring for the communities affected. A collapse of agiculture in Holland would not help anyone, in a world with large food shortages. Environmental, economic and social sustainability need to go together to help re-adjustment. (Much as I loathe EU subsidies, they would represent one possible compromise here, by using them to support Dutch farmers that went organic.)


  1. Dear Sir,
    We are glad to inform you that CCM is going to organize a conference, named The Future of Crop Protection China, on March 20th-21st 2009, in Dijon Hotel Shanghai, China. It is paralleled with Shanghai CAC 2009.

    Chinese market has been so attractive that none of the promising company would like to miss any chance of uncovering new growing points. This conference focuses on the investment and market in China’s crop protection. Hot issues like how financial crisis influences crop protection industry, key investment opportunities in agrochemicals, biopesticides, gene modified crops will be analyzed and discussed. CCM has invited speakers from famous organizations, associations and giants in China and worldwide crop protection industries as followings:

    –Anhui Huaxing Chemical Industry

    –Hubei Sanonda

    –Zhejiang Changxing Zhongshan Chemicals Industry

    –Biocentury Transgene(China)

    –China Agricultural University
    –Shenzhen Noposion Agrochemicals

    –CCM International Ltd.
    –Shanghai Agrodragon

    –Xin’an Group
    –Excel Crop Care Ltd

    –Hebei Veyong Bio-chemical

    Delegates will have the chance to communicate face-to-face with all the crop protection giants from all over the world and discuss new cooperation opportunities. We believe this will be a great stage to explore Chinese crop protection industry.

    Please find detailed conference topics and speakers through the attched brochure. Book your place before December 31, 2008 and save 10%. In case you can not find it in the attachment, you are welcome to download it from the address as below. Thank you.

    Click to access The_Future_of_Crop_Protection_in_China_brochure.pdf

    If there is any question, please do not hesitate to contact us.

    Best regards
    Ms Ruer Fang
    Marketing Manager
    CCM International Limited
    Tel: 86 20 3876 7072 ext 851
    Fax: 86 20 3876 7356
    Skype: RuerFang
    Email: emarket4@cnchemicals.com

  2. That’s a bold bit of spam, advertising a conference for pesticides below a post calling for a ban. Kudos. It can stay.

    Just don’t go, please. Or go and cause a ruckus.

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