Plant protection plant health care IFOAM Organics Europe

Plant protection

Plant protection tools and strategies working with biodiversity

Plant protection in organic farming works with biodiversity rather than against it. Organic agriculture tries to implement holistic, agroecological strategies instead of simply replacing synthetic pesticides by other inputs.

eric gall
Eric Gall
Policy Manager

Throughout the EU, synthetic pesticides are still widely used. This is problematic because they can significantly reduce biodiversity in (agro)ecosystems and undermine nature’s and society’s capacity to adapt to climate change. Widespread use of synthetic pesticides also can affect us as individuals. It can pollute our water and air and leaves pesticide residues on our food. This combination of factors can be detrimental for human health – both of those handling the products and those consuming the end products.

One of the principles of organic agriculture is ‘health’. To ensure the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet, organic agriculture seeks to create resilient agricultural systems that are significantly lower in use and dependence of off-farm inputs.

To achieve this, organic farming manages plant protection based on preventive and indirect measures. Only specific plant protection products are allowed in organic production when duly justified.

The use of herbicides is completely prohibited. The few products used aim to be specific enough to reduce infestations without compromising the resilience of the system. For such products to be allowed in organic farming, they must consist of “natural or naturally derived substances”.

IFOAM Organics Europe…

  • Supports the future development of organic plant health care in EU regulation and policy;
  • Participates to the European Commissions Directorate General on Health and Food safety’s (DG SANTE) advisory group on food chain and animal and plant health;
  • Is part of the RELACS project that will develop and facilitate tools and technologies to phase out dependency on and use of inputs considered contentious in organic farming systems. Read ‘Projects we are involved in’ for more
Legal framework

Ongoing processes

  • EU Regulation 2018/848 on organic production and labelling of organic products: This regulation will replace EU regulation 834/2007 from 2021 onwards. The basic legal act has been put forward, but implementing and delegated acts are still pending. Like the current EU Organic Regulation, it will cover rules for organic plant production and plant protection products;
  • Evaluation of Regulation 1107/2009 and Regulation 396/2005: published in May 2020.

Legislative background

  • EU regulation 1107/2009 on the placing of plant protection products on the market: Lays down rules for the authorisation of plant protection products in commercial form and for their placing on the market, use and control, and for the approval of active substances.
  • EU regulation 834/2007 and EU regulation 889/2008 on organic production and labelling of organic products: Stipulates rules of organic plant production and plant protection products.
  • Sustainable Pesticide Use Directive establishes a framework to achieve a sustainable use of pesticides by promoting the use of integrated pest management and of alternative approaches or techniques such as nonchemical alternatives to pesticides.
  • EU Regulation 396/2005 stipulates maximum residue levels in or on food and feed of plant and animal origin.
Our position

IFOAM Organics Europe believes that many aspects of organic plant health care are not adequately addressed in the current EU policy and regulatory framework. Immediate and long-term actions in EU regulation and policy must include:

  • Registration processes in horizontal legislation further adapted to naturally-occurring substances, reflecting their special importance for plant health care in organic farming;
  • A fast-track procedure for inclusion of registered substances in line with the organic principles and necessary for organic plant health;
  • Prioritisation of organic farming in National Action Plans implemented under the Sustainable Pesticide Use Directive;
  • Prioritisation of research and knowledge transfer for organic plant health to support greater agroecosystem resilience;
  • Introduction of a green valued add tax (VAT) on pesticides and synthetic fertilisers with revenues used to fund applied research development on organic and agro-ecological approaches.

Read our position paper for more details.

Projects IFOAM Organics Europe is involved in

RELACS – Alternatives for inputs in organic farming

The ‘Replacement of Contentious Inputs in Organic Farming Systems’ (RELACS) project looks into safe tools and technologies to phase out inputs considered contentious in organic farming. Two of the project’s work packages looks into alternatives for copper and mineral oil.

RELACS has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 773431. The information contained in this communication only reflects the author’s view.

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