More flower strips and fallow land needed for protection of insects and birds

Legal opinion: Authorisation procedure must take better account of indirect impacts on biodiversity

Ein Traktor sprüht Pflanzenschutzmittel auf ein Feld.Click to enlarge
Plant protection products deplete biodiversity in the agricultural landscape
Source: oticki / Fotolia.com

The national assessment authorities must take greater account of the indirect effects of plant protection products (PPPs) on biodiversity. These effects refer for example to when skylarks and other birds can no longer find food on fields because plant protection products inadvertently also kill off the insects and other organisms on which birds feed. Although such protection against the indirect effects of PPPs on biodiversity is required by EU and national law, its actual execution is inadequate. These are the findings of a new legal opinion commissioned by the German Environment Agency (UBA). UBA therefore recommends a much more cautious use of PPPs which are particularly harmful to biodiversity. "This means that the use of products with strong indirect impacts will only be allowed if the operator can provide evidence of a minimum parcel of land untouched by plant protection agents on which wild herbs can grow and insects and birds can feed. Flower strips, fallow land or untreated areas of spaced sowing could provide the appropriate space for this purpose. Any application of chemicals for plant protection would be prohibited on these ecological compensation areas", said UBA's President Maria Krautzberger.

The large-scale and intensive use of broadband herbicides does not result in elimination of only unwanted pests. The poisons they contain also kill off other animals and plants on fields and lead to continued decimation of the biodiversity on fields and pastures and in the agricultural landscape in general. Skylarks and other birds, butterflies and wild bees can no longer find food. Conventional agriculture still depends on the intensive application of pesticides.

UBA is making an appeal for the quick implementation of all the available legal means to so that skylarks, bumblebees and other species threatened by excessive use of PPPs can survive. "Plant protection that is really sustainable, however, requires an overall reduction of the application of PPPs." The German Environment Agency presented a 5-point programme for sustainable plant protection in early 2017. "Chemical plant protection is certainly a risky venture because its efficiency always has side effects for the environment. This is why many of the products can only be authorised subject to strict environmental regulations. Ms Krautzberger said, "It is particularly important to reduce the application of plant protection products overall and to focus on the use of alternative products. After all, these products are applied extensively and in considerable amounts – about 100,000 tonnes per year in Germany. Conventional farming in particular must improve its practices.”

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 Pflanzenschutzmittel