“Let your food be your medicine.” From the Coalition for another PAC for World Food Safety Day

This June 7, World Food Safety Day, is said to kill hunger and nourish healthily, without risk and without poisoning. Something that seems so basic to life does not always happen. May contain chemicals that are added during its production in the field. In addition, it includes harmful compounds present in the environment. Among the most worrying chemicals are pesticides, which, although designed to be toxic to pests, are also harmful to the environment. They affect both human health (such as endocrine disruptors) and biodiversity (causing poisoning and reproductive problems).

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which manages one third of the European budget, has a clear responsibility to control and reduce the use and toxicity of pesticides intended for agricultural food production. The details of a new reform, which will be in force until 2027, are currently being finalized. It sets out specific environmental objectives (soil, water, biodiversity) and food quality and health. But pressure from some sectors of producers to alleviate them is great.

During the long process of modernizing the CAP, the European Commission also presented its farm-to-fork and biodiversity strategies (2020). They envisioned, among other things, the goal of reducing global use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50%, and the use of the most dangerous pesticides by 2030. But the big agribusiness lobby is constantly boycotting it, especially with the “fear argument” food shortages, an old pretext that has become important in the context of the war in Ukraine, to call into question the environmental objectives of the European Green Pact (EVP), in general and the CAP in particular. It seems obvious that there are already examples of farms with agri-environmental production in which natural pest control is a reality, with minimal use of pesticides and crops in sufficient quantity and quality.

For the same haphazard reasons, the revision of the Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides and its amendment to a European regulation directly applicable to the Member States has been delayed. This review, which aims to focus pesticide reduction on regulation, is the last hope for the transition to a truly responsible food system with people and nature. It must be remembered that compliance with this rule is an essential requirement for the recovery of aid from the new CAP and there is therefore the aforementioned opposition.

The CAP proposal made by Spain in its Strategic CAP Plan (PEPAC) does not propose any reduction in the use of pesticides and their impact. He also proposes that direct sowing be rewarded as a practice that contributes to the fight against climate change. It is forgotten that this implies a high use of broad-spectrum herbicides, without any restrictions, which emphasizes the biodiversity crisis that goes hand in hand with the urgency of the climate.

Agri-environmental aid has also been proposed, such as integrated production, which is unlikely to reduce toxins in the field. In turn, the proposed insufficient support for organic production, in turn, would hamper the achievement of the PVE target of reaching 25% of the utilized agricultural area below it.

Apart from the fact that the new CAP plan has little ambition in its environmental objectives, another problem arises: its evaluation and monitoring system is insufficient. The “harmonized risk indicators” of pesticides inadequately assess the real impact of these products, as they allow the conclusion to be made to reduce the risk while increasing consumption, as shown in the report of the organizations. In addition, there is great opacity in official statistics on the use of pesticides and active substances, a European regulation that also needs to be revised this year.

For all these reasons, the signatories of the Coalition for Another PAC support a European science campaign for citizens to find out which pesticides reach our bodies through food, water, air, … And with the results – which are expected to be alarming – it will be the CAP needed to tackle this environmental and health problem. This must be the lever of change to bring the agri-food sector to a fair agri-environmental transition, which is the main mission of Por Otra PAC. Any proposal to reduce pesticides must include quantitative use reductions and qualitative risk reduction, and these policies must be monitored using bias-avoiding indicators.

The close links between our health, that of animals and the way we manage ecosystems show the need to focus on the concept of global health (One Health), in which the food system plays an indisputable role. Either we will now overhaul the agri-food system with the PAC and the agri-food PERTE (strategic projects for economic recovery and transformation) gradually, or, if we continue to postpone it, there will be no room for a gradual transition to sustainable food systems. The change will be devastating, leaving behind the most vulnerable farms, such as those of small size and family character.

This article was prepared by experts from four Coalition entities for another PAC, which are:

Aina Calafat, responsible for the distribution and international projects of the Spanish Society for Organic Agriculture (SEAE).

Celsa Peiteado, responsible for the WWF Spain food program.

Coldo Hernandez, Coordinator of the Toxic Substances Area of ​​the Ecologistas en Acción.

Tamara Rodriguez, responsible for agriculture, livestock, food and rural development at SEO / BirdLife.

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