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CropLife Europe responds to questions from DeSmog

CropLife Europe answers questions from DeSmog on the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the Commission’s proposal for a Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive.

DeSmog question: Meeting of Expert Group on the European Food Security Crisis Preparedness and Response Mechanism. Minutes of the ‘Expert Group on the European Food Security Crisis Preparedness and Response Mechanism’ show that some stakeholders “called for a slower implementation of the European Green Deal / Farm-to-Fork (EGD/F2F) objectives in order to boost food production” during a meeting in March 2022. We note that CropLife Europe joined the group as an observer following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Does this reflect your position on Farm to Fork in light of the Ukraine war? Was CropLife Europe amongst stakeholders that called for slower implementation of Green Deal/F2F objectives?

CropLife Europe answer: CropLife Europe fully supports the Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy. We have always supported them – and our position today remains unchanged. We have not advocated for a delay. While we agree on the ambition, we differ on the methods proposed to get there.

We are keen to make sure that the Farm to Fork Strategy can be implemented without jeopardising farmers’ ability to produce safe, healthy and sufficient food. Putting farmers out of business is not in anyone’s interests. This necessitates providing government support for innovation and creating a legislative environment that enables innovation and setting targets that are ambitious but not completely unattainable.

Since the Farm to Fork Strategy was published, we have called for more data in order to support the transition that leaves no farmer and no consumer behind.1

We did request to be part of the Expert Group. We felt this was a good forum to share our expertise to tackle the logistics and supply challenges Ukraine is facing.

1 The adoption of the Statistics on agricultural input and output (SAIO) will make relevant data available to support the transition to a more sustainable agricultural system.

DeSmog question: Further minutes from meetings of the Expert Group in March show that “Members expressed different views on the balance between short term measures addressing pressing needs to increase production and the longer term respect of the commitments towards the Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy.” What is your stance on the balance between short term measures for production and long-term commitments of the Green Deal and Farm to Fork?

CropLife Europe answer: Europe set a clear environmental ambition with the Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy to achieve such resilience in our food systems with climate action, partnerships and CAP reform. This is an ambition we support as long as sustainability increases. Farmers are the backbone of Europe and play a pivotal role in putting food on our plates. Access and availability to food supplies have been in jeopardy across the world for some time.

Our aim is to support this transition by strengthening the farmers’ toolbox with new, better and innovative products.

DeSmog question: In October 2021, CropLife Europe and other industry members wrote to the Commission criticizing what they called “non-data based political targets” in the EU Farm to Fork, and warned that these would “have deleterious effects on European agriculture.” Does this reflect your current stance? What is your position in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

CropLife Europe answer: War in Ukraine is adding another dimension and its impacts also need to be taken into consideration.

DeSmog question: Our article notes that in November 2020, the European Crop Protection Association, now CropLife Europe, published a position paper stating that 50% pesticide reduction targets were “not realistic” and “will not have the desired effect of having a more sustainable food production model in Europe.” Does this reflect your current stance on the EU’s pesticide reduction target?

CropLife Europe answer: Our position on the proposal for sustainable use of pesticides regulation addresses the need to have targets which take into account the availability of alternative and individual country-specific agricultural environments.

DeSmog question: In June 2022, CropLife Europe’s director general Olivier de Matos wrote a sponsored article in the Brussels Times calling mandatory Farm to Fork targets “arbitrary”, and stated that they were “not the solution” to create a more sustainable food system. Does this statement reflect CropLife Europe’s position? Did the timing of the article relate to the publication of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive the same month?

CropLife Europe answer: The article was published to show our position openly and transparently at the time of the SUR being presented by the European Commission. What the Brussels Times article aimed to express is that looking at just one target in isolation is not going to have the desired effect with regards to resilience and sustainability in food production.

DeSmog question: Wageningen University Impact Assessment. Our article notes that the ‘Impact Assessment of EC 2030 Green Deal Targets for Sustainable Crop Production’ by Wageningen University and Research was paid for, “supervised” and “guided” by CropLife Europe. It also notes that Syngenta, a member of CropLife Europe, referred to the study in a sponsored article in Euractiv in January 2022 without mentioning CropLife Europe’s role in the study. Would you like to comment on CropLife Europe’s financial and other support for the impact assessment?

CropLife Europe answer: We asked Wageningen University to prepare an economic impact assessment on the targets in the Farm to Fork strategy. Please note that when we commissioned the impact assessment there was no comprehensive and holistic impact assessment being planned by the European Commission.

Our goal for an economic assessment was to understand the impact of the targets and see what policy tools are needed in order to reach the objectives in the Farm to Fork strategy of protecting food production and biodiversity at the same time. To date there is no holistic impact assessment that assesses all targets of Farm to Fork and accounts for the impacts and measures the benefits.

As mentioned before we need robust data to support this transition in food production and Wageningen University and Research had full independence in carrying out the research and providing conclusions based on the research.

DeSmog question: Our article notes that the impact assessment does not account for positive impacts from more sustainable production – for example the impact of increased biodiversity or larger bee populations on crop pollination. It also notes that the impact assessment did not model the impact if no action is taken to change Europe’s agricultural system. What is your view of these omissions from the study? Was CropLife Europe aware of the omissions when commissioning the study?

CropLife Europe answer: Please refer to answers above