The Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, caused an outcry by announcing the suspension of the Ecophyto plan, supposed to reduce the use of phytosanitary products by 50% by 2030 (compared to the period 2015-2017), “time to put in place a new indicator” reference to measure their use. This turned into an open crisis with environmental defense associations. Future Generations, France Nature Environnement, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Foundation for Nature and Man, the League for the Protection of Birds and even Doctors’ Alert on Pesticides have slammed the door of the steering committee strategy and monitoring of the Ecophyto plan, meeting Monday February 12, so as not to “endorse a fifteen-year step backwards”.
In a joint declaration, the NGOs believe that “call into question the NODU indicator [nombre de doses unités]is to call into question the very objective of reducing the use of pesticides (…) and therefore the very existence of the Ecophyto plan ».
The NODU indicator, in force in France since the launch of the first Ecophyto plan in 2009, measures the number of treatments used per hectare. By relying on reference doses, specific to each active substance, it has the advantage of taking into account the effectiveness of molecules which, with the same tonnage, can have a very different impact on health and the environment. The agrochemical industry and the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA) are campaigning for another benchmark, the harmonized risk indicator (HRI-1), which weights the quantities of pesticides used by a coefficient supposed to reflect their dangerousness.
Proposed by the European Commission as part of the regulation on the use of pesticides – rejected by MEPs in November 2023, then withdrawn by the European executive on February 6 – this indicator was qualified as “misleading” by the German health authorities: they consider that it would induce a false reduction. Based on data provided by the European Commission and the Ministry of Agriculture, the Générations futures association compared the results by applying the two indicators to France over the period 2011-2021. According to the HRI-1, pesticide use drops by 32%, while it increases by 3% with the NODU.
At the end of the strategic orientation committee of the Ecophyto plan on Monday, the government indicated that the objective of reducing the use of pesticides by 50% by 2030 was “maintained”but that the choice of the indicator which would be used to evaluate this drop was not ” not done yet “. The arbitration should take place before the opening of the International Agricultural Show on February 24.
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