President's Blog - 24 July 2019

Farmers need a full toolkit to feed the world, that is according to President Andrew McCornick who is taking aim at the EU’s hazard based approach to regulating plant protection products.

Science must come first, last and always in deciding the safety and effectiveness of plant protection products (PPPs). If the European Union want to continue to deliver the most stringent system in the world when approving substances, then they must fully commit to a science-based policy and allow farmers access to the full range of safe technologies and tools needed in order for them to meet the challenge of producing more food.

16 countries, including the United States, Australia and Canada, have spoken out to criticise the EU saying that its hazard based approach rather than a risk based approach, to regulating pesticides and other “critical tools” used by farmers was damaging livelihoods worldwide.

They said the EU’s approach has created great uncertainty and diverged from science-based risk assessments, creating disruption that threatened to escalate significantly in coming years.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 26-40% of crop yields are lost to weeds, pests and diseases. Without plant protection products, it estimates these losses could double. If farmers are denied access to a full range of products, there will be a significant drop in global food production, and a subsequent hike in food prices and drop in food quality. A new report, commissioned by the Crop Protection Agency, suggests that the average weekly grocery bill for a family of four would rise by more than £15 a week – £786 per year – without plant protection products. The report states that “the removal of plant protection products would present a severe challenge to already hard-pressed households, exacerbate income inequalities and make healthy eating more expensive. Some of the largest increases in prices would be for vegetables and fruit.” 1

One of the more politically sensitive PPPs is Glyphosate. The current EU licence for glyphosate expires on 15 December 2022 and a meeting of EU member state representatives earlier this year endorsed a commission proposal for the relevant authorities of four member states, France, Hungary, Sweden and The Netherlands, to review the application to reauthorise glyphosate in the EU.

As a result of rigorous science-based regulatory assessments, regulators including the US EPA, European Food Safety Authorities (EFSA), European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), German BfR, and Australian, Canadian, Korean, New Zealand and Japanese regulatory authorities, as well as the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR), all support the conclusion that glyphosate-based products are safe when used as directed and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.

Scottish farmers recognise the importance of professional and responsible use of products but should be able to utilise all options as part of an IPM system. Glyphosate and other plant protection products play a key role in effective crop protection which is essential to food production. Glyphosate reduces the need to use other herbicides, helps to protect soil and cuts greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need for ploughing. It also enables Scottish farmers to grow crops that help produce safe, affordable and high quality food.

  • Glyphosate-based herbicides help enable farmers to control weeds with little or no tillage, which dramatically reduces the carbon footprint and helps farmers maintain healthier soil. There are 53% more earthworms in no plough systems of cultivation
  • Losing glyphosate would mean 546,000 hectares more land would be needed to grow the same amount of food in the UK
  • Glyphosate use allows 15% more rapeseed and 17% more wheat to be produced
  • The loss of glyphosate would also have a number of significant environmental impacts, including a 25% increase in greenhouse gas emissions from changes to agricultural practices. Soil quality would be damaged as more ploughing would be needed and bird habitats would be destroyed because of the need for increased mechanical weed control.
Plant Protection Products: The value of their contribution to lowering UK household expenditure on food and drink

Author: Andrew McCornick

Date Published:

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About The Author

Andrew McCornick

Andrew, who is married with three sons and a daughter, was born and brought up on a dairy farm in Wigtown. Andrew and wife Janice farm their 230+ ha unit with 160 suckler cows and 600 breeding ewes with a small herd of pedigree Charolais cattle. Andrew's sons farm a nearby tenanted unit which frequently provides replacement breeding stock for Barnbackle. For as long as Andrew can remember, he has been a member of the Union, and got more involved when the consultation for Nithsdale NVZ came out. From there he went onto become vice chairman of the Dumfries branch, and then onto his previous role of Regional Board Chairman for Dumfries and Galloway. He also sat on the LFASS committee. Andrew was elected Vice President in February 2015.

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