Scientists warn against reduction in EU pesticides

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - A group of European Union scientists has warned against a planned reduction in the number of pesticides allowed in the EU, claiming this could increase resistance of pests and make crop cultivation uncompetitive.

Grapes in the vineyard of Chateau Haut Brion in Pessac, southwestern France in this September 1, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

“The scientists from seven countries fear that reducing the available range of pesticides could lower their efficiency as it is likely that it will increase resistance,” they said in a statement received by Reuters late on Tuesday.

They said the increased risk of developing resistance to the few remaining substances could make cultivation of many crops, including grapes, wheat, barley, cotton, fruit, potatoes and vegetables in Europe, uncompetitive.

“In order to safeguard the production of food at affordable prices, it is essential to provide farmers with access to sufficient diversity of crop protection solutions,” the scientists’ spokesman Ian Denholm from the UK’s Rothamsted Research institute, said in the statement.

“This is essential to prevent or delay the development of resistant pests, and to maintain the efficacy of remaining crop protection products,” he added.

The scientists presented their appeal to Slovenia’s Agriculture Minister Iztok Jarc as Slovenia holds the rotating six-month presidency of the EU.

The European Commission started a pesticide revision process in 2006 while the European parliament in October 2007 pushed for further restrictions which could lead to a loss of between 70 to 85 percent of the remaining substances.

The EU’s Council of Ministers aim to reach a political agreement on the matter in May.

At present around 250 pesticides are allowed in the EU, Andrej Simoncic, director of the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia, told Reuters.

Scientists claim the reduction of pesticides could lead to lower crop yields and higher food prices which have already contributed to a hike in inflation in the EU over the past year.

In March, inflation in the EU rose to 3.8 percent from 2.3 percent a year ago.

Reporting by Marja Novak; editing by Chris Johnson.