Proposal for a regulation on the sustainable use of plant protection products

In “A European Green Deal”

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The European Commission work programme for 2022 includes a revision of Directive 2009/128/EC, commonly referred to as the Sustainable Pesticide Use Directive or SUD. The SUD aims to achieve a sustainable use of plant protection products (PPPs) by reducing the risks and impacts of PPP use on human health and the environment and promoting integrated pest management, as well as alternative approaches or techniques, such as non-chemical alternatives to pesticides. The legislative proposal was expected in the first quarter of 2022, but due to urgent measures regarding the war in Ukraine, its publication was delayed until the second quarter of 2022.

On 22 June 2022, the Commission tabled a proposal for a regulation on the sustainable use of pesticides, which would repeal and replace Directive 2009/128/EC. The proposal sets legally binding targets at EU level to reduce by 50 % the use and the risk of chemical pesticides as well as the use of the more hazardous pesticides by 2030, in line with the EU's 'farm to fork' strategy. To reach the EU-wide target collectively, Member States would have some flexibility in setting their own binding national reduction targets within defined parameters, allowing account to be taken of national situations, including historical progress and intensity of pesticide use. The proposal would ban the use of all pesticides in sensitive areas (and within three metres of those areas).

In Parliament, the file was referred to the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). The ENVI Committee appointed Sarah Wiener (Greens/EFA, Austria) as rapporteur for the file on 1 September 2022. The Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) was associated to the legislative report under Rule 57, with some exclusive and some shared competences (rapporteur: Clara Aguilera, S&D, Spain). 

In the Council, ministers exchanged views on the proposal at various Agriculture and Fisheries Council meetings. On 19 December 2022, the Council adopted a decision requesting the Commission to prepare, and submit within 6 months, a study complementing the existing impact assessment of the proposal, notably as regards food security aspects. Throughout the Swedish Council Presidency, discussions were limited to those chapters of the proposal not affected by that decision.

In response to the Council request, the European Commission submitted on 5 July 2023 a study complementing the impact assessment. In the accompanying letter, the Commission noted that its study confirmed the need for reduction in chemical pesticide use and risk, and concluded that the pesticide reduction goals envisaged in the proposal would not threaten food security, but rather safeguard it in the longer term.

Ministers discussed the study at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 25 July. According to Council reports, some felt that important elements were still missing, especially regarding the quantitative assessment of the proposal on each member state. For many delegations, the most difficult aspects of the proposal remained the mandatory reduction targets at national level, and the prohibition on the use of plant protection products in sensitive areas. The Commission presented a non-paper on sensitive areas in November 2022.

The ENVI Committee adopted its report on 24 October 2023 with 47 votes to 37 and 2 abstentions. The report  supported an EU-wide reduction of at least 50 % in the use and risk of chemical PPPs and raised the reduction goal for the use of more hazardous ones to 65 % by 2030. It would extend the baseline period for calculating progress towards these targets. To increase the availability and use of alternative solutions, the report required the setting of an additional EU-wide 2030 target for increasing overall sales of low-risk PPPs and biological control, and introduced measures to accelerate market access for such products. In sensitive areas, the report would allow application of PPPs approved for organic farming and biological control, and add derogations from the prohibition on the use of other PPP categories. The text introduced new requirements for the monitoring of PPP residues and their metabolites in the environment and humans, and recording and reporting of occupational diseases resulting from PPP use and exposure. By the end of 2025, the Commission would have to look into differences between imported and domestically produced agricultural and agri-food products as regards PPP use, and propose, if needed, legislative measures to ensure imports meet equivalent standards. The export of active substances and PPPs not approved in the EU would in principle be banned. The report was tabled for plenary on 7 November 2023.

Over 200 amendments were tabled on the text. On 22 November 2023, Parliament's plenary voted to reject the proposal as amended (299 MEPs voted against the amended text, 207 supported it and 121 abstained). Parliament's plenary also voted against referring the text back to the ENVI Committee for reconsideration. This closed Parliament's first reading, leaving it up to the Council to decide on its stance, i.e. determine whether the proposed regulation would be definitively rejected or should return to Parliament for a second reading.

A progress report was presented at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 10-11 December 2023. A discussion on the 'Possible way forward to reach a Council position on SUR' was on the agenda of the Working Party on Plants and Plant Health Questions (Pesticides/PPPs) on 24 January 2024.

In February 2024, the Commission announced its intention to withdraw its proposal by the end of March, in view of Parliament's rejection of the text and the lack of progress in Council discussions. The withdrawal decision was published on 6 May 2024 in the EU Official Journal.   


Further reading

Author: Vivienne Halleux, Members' Research Service,

As of 20/06/2024.