“Holland’s iconic tulip fields may not bloom for much longer if EU proposals to restrict pesticide approvals are accepted.” So begins a recent press release from the . “If the hazard-based criteria put forward by the Parliament to reduce pesticide availability were accepted, there would be yield reductions of 50 to 100% for a range of Dutch crops including tulip bulbs, roses, cucumbers and brussels sprouts. This means they could no longer be grown profitably.”
“Politicians must tighten up EU pesticide laws to protect our health and to preserve biodiversity” , Greenpeace chemist. “Pesticides that can cause cancer, alter genes, and damage the reproductive, endocrine or nervous system must no longer be authorised. Pesticides that harm bees or life in aquatic environments must be banned from the market. The chemical industry is now using its significant lobbying power to try to secure authorisation even for toxins like these.”
Here are two sides to a current EU debate. On the one hand, pesticide residues have been found in almost half of all supermarket fruit and veg (), with serious health implications. On the other hand, our agriculture is so dependent on pesticides that to ban some chemicals will result in enormous financial distress to the farming industry.
To me, there’s no question about it – the pesticides need to be banned, but I wanted to post this story because it’s an important reminder of just how difficult these decisions are.
- Every move towards sustainability will require a sacrifice of some sort, in some sector, and the lobbyists will fight it. ( I love the way the group quoted here have called themselves the Crop Protection Association, rather than the Pro-Pesticides Lobby) We cannot always promise a win-win outcome.
- Profit tends to trump environmental concerns a lot of the time, and this is a perfect example of why this can’t be allowed to happen. It is sad for the tulip growers, but the health risks and loss of biodiversity are unacceptable. When a business model has been proven to be unsustainable, it must be discontinued, whatever the cost.
- We need a holistic approach to the environment. We cannot demand an immediate end to unsustainable practice without caring for the communities affected. A collapse of agiculture in Holland would not help anyone, in a world with large food shortages. Environmental, economic and social sustainability need to go together to help re-adjustment. (Much as I loathe EU subsidies, they would represent one possible compromise here, by using them to support Dutch farmers that went organic.)