The ‘green wave’ which saw environmentalist parties make major gains across the continent in the European elections could threaten the use of key pesticides in the EU.
The Greens stormed into second place in Germany, third place in France, second place in Finland and came within a whisker of beating Sinn Fein on first preferences in Ireland.
In the UK, the Green Party won over 2 million votes and returned seven MEPs – doubling their representation in the European Parliament.
This surge in support has given the Greens/European Free Alliance grouping a record amount of seats, and as a result, they are being courted by the two largest coalitions in the Parliament – the Party of European Socialists and the European Peoples’ Party, with the Greens indicating they will demand significant policy concessions for joining any alliance.
During the election campaign, the Green Party in the UK pledged to fight for a 50 per cent EU-wide reduction in the volume of pesticides used to grow fruit and vegetables by 2022.
In a statement, the group said: “The Government has dragged its feet over stopping this poisoning of our countryside, even though Defra’s own chief scientist, Professor Ian Boyd, has warned pesticide use is not safe for the environment and not sufficiently regulated.
“A pesticide tax for the UK was proposed ten years ago but rejected. EU law allows member states to impose a tax and other states have already done so, including France, Italy, Sweden and Denmark.”
The Crop Protection Association (CPA) has already hit out at the target, pointing out it fails to take account of the fact that lower impact pesticides, such as bio-pesticides and those approved for organic farming, often require greater and more frequent applications than traditional chemistry.
Chief executive Sarah Mukherjee said: “Setting arbitrary reduction targets would severely limit the ability of farmers to grow healthy, safe affordable food.
“In a country where it is estimated that 8 million people are in food poverty and 4 million are regularly using foodbanks, that is not a viable policy.”
Earlier in the year, five out of six candidates to be the new EU Commission President also backed a ban on glyphosate, with Czech Jan Zahradil the only contender supporting its continued use.