The European Parliament on Wednesday rejected a plan to cut back reliance on pesticides in agriculture.

As part of the European Green Deal, the Commission proposed on 22 June 2022 a regulation on the sustainable use of plant protection products as part of a package of measures aiming at reducing the environmental footprint of the EU’s food system.

Following a debate on Tuesday 21 November, 299 MEPs voted on Wednesday to reject the Commission’s proposal as amended by MEPs in plenary, with 207 supporting the proposal and 121 abstaining. With this vote, Parliament has effectively rejected the Commission proposal and closed its first reading. The Council still has to decide on its own position on the proposal to determine whether it is definitively rejected or returns to Parliament for a second reading.

No stricter pesticide rules
Now that Parliament has voted down the proposal, there will be no stricter pesticide rules at European level for the time being.

The MEPs had already significantly watered down the Commission's original proposal, but it came as a surprise to many that the entire proposal has now been voted down. "In the ten years that I have been working here, as far as I know, this has never happened before," says VVD MEP Jan Huitema.

Parliament's negotiator, Sarah Wiener of the Austrian Greens, is also visibly shocked during the press conference. "I cannot imagine that the entire proposal has now been thrown out. This is a major risk to the health of our society."

The European Commission wanted to significantly reduce pesticide use with the stricter rules. Organic farmers also had to be better compensated and the proposal included a total ban on pesticides in sensitive areas. "The whole of the Netherlands and Denmark would then be characterized as a sensitive area. That was of course a major mistake by the Commission," said Huitema.

The Commission subsequently adjusted the proposal, but that did not prevent a fierce battle between left-wing and right-wing MEPs. The frustration among the Greens was clearly noticeable. During the press conference, Austrian parliamentarian Wiener accused the European Christian Democrats of having had amendments to the law written by the pesticide industry.

Draft legislation
"I could not have imagined that the entire draft legislation would have ended up trampled into the ground like this, it is a bitter disappointment, for biodiversity, for our health and our children's health," Greens party rapporteur Sarah Wiener told Reuters. Wiener said the right had worked with the extreme right to help agro-industry lobbyists ditch the legislation. The parliament's Greens/EFA group said in a statement that the text had been so watered down in crucial areas that in the end it was not good enough for anyone to support it.

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