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In Europe the gap between 2030 targets and the use of pesticides is increasing

In Europe the gap between 2030 targets and the use of pesticides is increasing

More than a quarter of a century has gone by since the European Union became aware of the need for a new rural route in 1996 with the Cork Conference.
Yet that November 9, after three days of work, ended with a new awareness: “The awareness that 80% of the European territory is a rural territory and that it hosts 25% of the population requires a new and different attention on its political management which must involve the entire European territory which, despite its variability, represents a landscape of ancient history and tradition on which to reorient the social and economic systems of the future”.
With the Cork Conference begins that long journey of hopes and new perspectives which is far from finished but which seems to have got stuck in the difficulties of getting out of an agro-food model, and therefore also an ecological and social one, which resembles a giant with feet bogged down in a huge clay marsh.
Yet with the enactment of the 2019 Green Deal, especially with the two Farm to Fork and Biodiversity 2030 Strategies, the hope for an epochal turning point in the way of doing business, with a change of cultural, social, scientific and technical paradigms has rekindled the expectations of those who have been fighting for years to bring our civilization to a new promised land. That land where, by respecting everyone (from the most invisible of living beings to the most conspicuous) it is possible to give well-being to all.
And instead, as underlined by a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), it emerges how much the old continent (certainly not unique in the world panorama) is still far from the objectives of reducing the use of pesticides by 50% by the 2030 that we have given ourselves. The report highlights that: “In 2020, one or more pesticides above the thresholds of concern (a risk to human health) were detected in 22% of all monitoring sites in rivers and lakes in Europe. In terms of soil pollution, 83% of agricultural land analyzed in a 2019 study contained pesticide residues.
As if the news weren’t enough to “cheer our lives”, Italy’s condition is even among the worst in the EU. In the country which, we emphasize, is located in the center of the Mediterranean, and therefore in a rather delicate ecosystem, it appears that the pollution from imidacloprid (one of the neonicotinoids) and atrazine (although banned in 1992) is worrying.
The fact is that, throughout Europe, 350,000 tons of pesticides are still sold every year.
The figure which, taken in absolute terms, may not say much, except for a few statistics inside the sector, is instead disturbing when compared with an unprecedented ecological crisis (and let’s not talk about climate change where the issues are more complex and less objectifiable ); in fact, the use of pesticides in Europe has not only not decreased in the last 10 years, but in some countries it has even increased.
Unfortunately, this figure is echoed by the official data on the decrease in flora and fauna and biodiversity in general, even in an increasingly arid soil system.
Thus, sales of plant protection products in the 27 EU countries remained at a value of 350,000 tonnes per year between 2011 and 2020, with a greater increase in absolute volumes in Germany and France and in relative terms in Austria and Latvia. There are 11 countries where volumes sold have dropped, with the Czech Republic, Portugal and Denmark among the most virtuous. Germany, France, Spain and Italy are instead the countries that sell and use the most pesticides within the EU.

Among other things, if we go into the details of the data, in Italy the situation is worrying in most of the surface waters of the North and Center which record levels of imidacloprid (neonicotinoid insecticide) well above the warning levels established by Europe.
The other smaller hotspots in Europe are in Catalonia, between Belgium and the Netherlands and in the Czech Republic.
It should also be underlined that the North-West area of Italy is the one that records the worst situation for the quantities of atrazine in groundwater (despite the fact that this principle, which is an endocrine disruptor, has been banned in Italy for 31 years fa), which should already move the prosecutors and the European Court to enter into the merits of the matter.
These data which, we repeat, are only a tip of the iceberg of that incredible planetary emergency in which we have become entangled, obviously requires a change of pace.
It is necessary to move from the objectives relating to pesticides and biodiversity established in the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity 2030 strategies to implementation rules, country by country, clear and unequivocal, as well as assisting Researchers, Doctors of Agronomy and Doctors of Forestry, Farmers and every operator in the sector to a serious assistance and information campaign that speeds up the change of pace towards that more productive and less polluting paradigm of Agroecology.
This is the meaning of the EEA’s final declaration which calls for “significant further efforts” from Community policy. In this sense, the European Environment Agency concludes that: “We could reduce our dependence on chemical pesticides to maintain crop yields and overall pesticide use volumes by switching to alternative models of agriculture, such as agroecology”.
However, we must conclude this contribution by pointing out that Italy, which had moved earlier in this direction, is in a paradoxical condition.
At the national level, the bill for the law on Agroecology has got stuck in the shackles of an ideological confusion of politics, which involves, we are sorry to say, a large part of Parliament, of any extraction and ideology.
Sicily, which was the forerunner Region, with its L.R. 21 of 29 July 2021, is still standing due to the lack of signature by the Assessors on duty who, in defiance of the political will of the Sicilian Regional Assembly, are unable to “fail” to affix a simple signature on the Implementing Decree, already drawn up and ratified by the competent Group of Work of the Agriculture Department of the Region.
A “huge effort” of these Assessors who, perhaps, once the efforts of the electoral commitments and promises are over, can no longer find the “strength” for a simple signature.
All this makes us understand how strong the disconnect is between the real Political Ideologies of the world of Culture and Research and the small party ideologies of those who represent us today.
A disconnect that risks undermining the already weak democracies of our countries and of a political identity of a European Union, called, more than ever, to be a state among states and a representative of those consciences that petty party politics would like to stifle with his Babel of this glimpse of History.

Guido Bissanti

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