An EU citizens’ group has collected over one million signatures on its petition seeking an EU-wide pesticides ban by 2035.

The Save Bees and Farmers group is also calling on the European Commission to slash the use of sprays by 80% by 2030.

The group claims that member states have failed to act on the sustainable use of pesticides directive (SUD) they signed up to in 2009 and that pesticide usage is impacting negatively on biodiversity and soil health.

It has said that farmers should be supported if sprays were to be phased out.

It presented its petition of 1.18m signatures, which were gathered by environmental groups from all EU member states, to the Commission this week, with 89% of these signatures deemed valid.

“Fifteen years ago, the Commission proposed legislation to reduce the risk and the dependence on pesticides, to protect ecologically sensitive areas, and to substitute more hazardous pesticides with less hazardous ones,” said a representative of the environmental group Helmut Burtscher-Schaden.

New rules

Save Bees and Farmers has stated that the Commission’s proposals to update this legislation by introducing a stricter sustainable use regulation (SUR) is “under heavy attack” from some elements of the farming sector, as well as some EU member states.

Given Ireland’s classification as a nitrates vulnerable zone, the SUR as proposed in its current form would see the use of sprays banned right across the country.

“From this background, we see it as a fatal signal in terms of democratic policy if some member states are now trying to torpedo the SUR, trying to delay it or, as is already being speculated in newspapers, try to kill the file,” Burtscher-Schaden added.

The citizens' group managed to reach the minimum signature threshold set by the EU in 10 countries, with the overall number of valid signatures putting its requests on the agenda of the Commission and European Parliament for debate.

A map compiled by the group suggests that Ireland was not one of the countries which exceeded the signature threshold.

SUR consultation

The Department of Agriculture is currently seeking farmers' views on the EU's pesticide plans.

Farmers can let the Department know what they think here.

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