New Strategies Announced for Reducing Pesticide Use in French Agriculture
Agriculture Government Plant Science

New Strategies Announced for Reducing Pesticide Use in French Agriculture

During the Strategic Orientation and Monitoring Committee (COS) meeting for the national plan to reduce pesticide use, Écophyto 2+, held on July 11, several new directions were announced. The meeting was attended by ministers responsible for agriculture, ecological transition, higher education, research, health, and overseas territories, demonstrating the government’s commitment to addressing the challenges of pesticide reduction. The committee marked the start of the development of the new Ecophyto 2030 strategy, which aims to adopt a more comprehensive approach to pesticide use centered around two objectives: reducing their usage and associated risks to human health and the environment and adapting crop protection techniques to provide viable alternatives for farmers.

The new strategy will address the following key areas:

  1. Establishing a collective method to prepare for the withdrawal of active substances, including communicating a shared schedule for substance withdrawals and identifying available alternatives (both chemical and non-chemical). This work has already begun through the Inter-sector Committee.
  2. Researching, developing, and deploying non-chemical alternatives, particularly in weed control.
  3. Accelerating and scaling up sustainable practices and system redesign adoption.
  4. Protecting human health, especially vulnerable individuals and agricultural workers, and the environment, particularly in sensitive areas.
  5. Communicating, supporting, and advising farmers, sectors, and territories in their transformation efforts.
  6. Preserve French sectors from European and international competition distortion through coordination with the negotiation of the SUR regulation and the implementation of corresponding measures. Special attention will be given to the overseas departments and regions to propose tailored solutions for combating harmful organisms and weeds.

The methodology and timeline for developing the Ecophyto 2030 plan were unveiled during the meeting, with the plan set to be presented in the coming months. One of the strategy’s key focuses will be preparing for the potential withdrawal of active substances and developing alternative crop protection techniques. The work on this action plan has already begun in close collaboration with agricultural sectors, and an initial assessment was presented during the Inter-sector Committee meeting on July 3.

The initial phase of work has identified situations where the potential withdrawal of active substances could effectively compromise the ability to manage and protect crops in the short term. This provides an overview of the strained use of substances across different sectors and a preliminary list of areas that require immediate action. Diagnostics will be conducted to identify research, development, and deployment needs to make alternatives operational. Based on this, a shared action strategy will be constructed to implement all necessary measures for making alternatives viable.

The 2023 programmatic model of the Écophyto II+ plan presented during the COS meeting includes funding of €41 million for structural actions, building on the continuity of the Écophyto II+ plan. This includes funding for the DEPHY network, the territory’s biological monitoring, actions supporting gardens and green spaces, and the Phytosol project to improve knowledge of phytosanitary products in soils. Additionally, a reserve has been established to fund actions aligned with the new strategy’s orientations, such as a pilot project to develop innovations that bridge the gap between fundamental and applied research.

During the meeting, indicators for monitoring the Écophyto plan were presented, demonstrating a significant and historic decrease in pesticide use since 2017. The number of active substances (excluding UAB and biocontrol) sold decreased by 20% to 43,000 tonnes in 2022 compared to the 2015-2017 average. Notably, sales of CMR1 substances (confirmed risk) classified as such since 2017 were close to zero in 2022, reflecting France’s efforts at the European level to prohibit the sale and use of highly concerning active substances.

For glyphosate, a herbicidal active substance, the total treated agricultural surface in 2022 was 3.5 million hectares, a 27% reduction compared to 2015-2017. This follows an ambitious policy to decrease glyphosate use, including introducing a glyphosate tax credit in 2021 and 2022 and the revision of market authorizations led by ANSES. The use of glyphosate in arable crops, fruit tree cultivation, viticulture, and forestry is now restricted to situations where it is not immediately substitutable.

While these figures indicate progress and commend the efforts made thus far, there is still a need to continue the path towards agroecological transition for more resilient agriculture. This includes mobilizing research, deploying and scaling up transition levers in the fields, and engaging all sectors alongside the government.

Image provided by the French Government
%d bloggers like this: