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April 23, 2008

Reducing EU-authorised pesticides likely to lead to increased pest-resistance

Leading European agricultural experts gathered in Ljubljana (Slovenia) on 22 April 2008 in order to present the Slovenian EU presidency with a declaration on potential risks of the proposed EU pesticide legislation. 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.

The scientist's concern is triggered by proposals announced by EU institutions to reform legislation on plant protection products. The European Parliament voted in favour of new legislation which would drastically reduce the number of authorised pesticides, in the coming
years.

In the "Declaration of Ljubljana", participating scientists express their fear that such a move would endanger the sustainability of European farming. They conclude that the increased risk of
developing resistance to the few remaining substances could make the cultivation of many crops, including grapes, wheat, barley, cotton, fresh fruit, potatoes and vegetables, in Europe problematic, and or uncompetitive.

The scientists' spokesperson, Dr Ian Denholm, Head, Plant and Invertebrate Ecology Division, Rothamsted Research, UK pointed out that, "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. This is essential to prevent or delay the development of resistant pests, and to maintain the efficacy of remaining crop protection products."

European Union legislation has already resulted in a reduction of the available portfolio of pesticides by more than 55% over the last decade.

Pest populations have the potential to develop resistance to crop protection products, particularly if they are regularly treated with a single product type. Once pests have developed a resistance to a certain group of crop protection products, their effectiveness is either significantly reduced or lost altogether. In the past, new crop protection products have often solved the problem. However, it takes an average of ten years and an investment of about 200 million Euros to develop and register a new pesticide.

Regulatory targets are already so stringent that the industry is only able to launch about five new active ingredients per year in Europe. The scientists therefore expressed their concern that the innovative capacity of the crop protection industry will not be able to replace the products which are likely to be removed from the market by the proposed legislation, or those which will as a result, be lost to resistance. This would lead to lower crop yields and higher food prices.

From a resistance management point of view, the crop protection products portfolio in Europe has already been very seriously impaired by the ongoing EU re-registration process, under Directive 91/414/EEC. Of the 952 existing crop protection products that existed previously,
530 have already been eliminated - and a further significant reduction in compounds is to be expected.

The scientists who drafted and signed the "Declaration of Ljubljana" are calling for European politicians to acknowledge the need to retain sufficient product diversity in order to manage the
threat of resistance development. It appears that this biological requirement has so far been largely neglected by policy makers. The scientists are concerned that the proposed European legislation will force farmers to use a smaller number of substances more intensively. This would increase the likelihood of resistance developing to the remaining pesticides, thereby threatening agricultural productivity and income of European farmers.

Agricultural Institute of Slovenia

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