Responding to Defra's consultation on implementing the CAP reform agreement in England, the CPA has emphasised the need for a flexible and pragmatic approach to the use of pesticides in order to support sustainable and productive farming, particularly in Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) under Pillar 1 of the CAP, as well as in agri-environment schemes under Pillar 2.
Commenting on the proposals CPA Chief Executive Nick von Westenholz said: "Reports that the European Commission are 'fully committed' to prohibiting pesticide use in EFAs are very troubling. This is typical of the sort of inflexible and overly prescriptive view of pesticide use that is hampering European farmers' as they strive to produce safe and affordable food.
Mr von Westenholz added, "It is disappointing that these reports come at the same time as the Commission's decision to impose a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, without a political mandate and contrary to the weight of scientific evidence, comes into effect on the 01 December.
"Blunt approaches aimed at simply reducing or prohibiting pesticide use, instead of focusing on the more important goal of managing risk alongside producing food, fail to appreciate the vital role pesticides play in modern, sustainable farming.
"The use of inputs such as pesticides in modern farming means we get the most out of the land cultivated for food, while optimising the availability of non-cultivated land for other beneficial purposes, including those for conservation, recreation and wildlife. Moreover, some of the best examples of conservation farming in the UK take a conventional approach that includes pesticides - both in growing crops and in managing land for biodiversity and the environment. For example, herbicides can play an important part in managing weeds when cultivating headlands for pollen-rich flowers in which pollinators, such as bees, thrive. It is clear that pesticides are part of the solution and not the problem with regard to sustainable production.
"European farmers are faced with the challenge, and the opportunity, of meeting growing global demand for food. Yet policy-makers seem hell-bent on stripping them of the tools that will allow them to rise to that challenge - and too often they're doing it without any understanding of the implications. For example, the EU has yet to undertake an impact assessment on what the removal of these three neonicotinoids will mean, so we still don't know what the impact will be on farmers, on wildlife, or on consumers and the price of food on shop shelves. The EU must conduct such an impact assessment as a matter of urgency.
"Meanwhile, we urge the UK Government to oppose any move by the Commission to prohibit pesticide use in EFAs on a Europe wide basis. Defra must take a flexible and pragmatic approach in the way it implements CAP in England, recognising the positive role pesticides can play in sustainable production, while acknowledging the excellent work on responsible pesticide use being undertaken voluntarily by the industry, through schemes such as the Voluntary Initiative."