Why Europe’s biodiversity, farmers and food security cannot wait another decade.

The theme of the International Day of Biological Diversity 2024 is Be Part of the Plan. As farmers urge policymakers for a plan to speed up access to biocontrol, we ask – can Europe’s biodiversity, farmers and food security wait another decade?

When biodiversity has a problem, agriculture has a problem

Unsustainable pest control practices are accelerating biodiversity loss jeopardising farmer livelihoods, food and the environment.  Biocontrol technologies are tried and tested alternatives that regulate pests and disease in a biodiversity-friendly way. Yet current European approval processes mean that farmers must wait up to 10 years before they can access a wider variety of biocontrol solutions, often already in use elsewhere.

Can Europe’s biodiversity, farmers and food security afford to wait another decade?

Copa Cogeca and IFOAM Organics Europe think not. Both organisations have issued calls with IBMA to accelerate the uptake of biocontrol. Together, they represent the millions of farmers in Europe growing our food.

As any farmer can tell you, dealing with pest and disease is part of their reality. Farmers are increasingly looking for alternatives that target the problem directly, do not harm the crop or the environment, work against pest resistance, and leave no residue. Fortunately, there are over 100 substances in the biocontrol pipeline, due to be submitted for approval in Europe by 2028, that would enable farmers to regulate pest and disease sustainably and effectively on 28 million hectares, of which 23 million are arable crops.

Jennifer Lewis, IBMA Executive Director says, “Considering that food security and strategic autonomy are top EU priorities, policymakers need to accelerate access to biocontrol tools, so they are in farmers’ hands before 2038.”

In a joint open letter to Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of the European Commission, IBMA and Copa-Cogeca point out that using “biocontrol contributes to enhancing soil quality and biodiversity.”  Biocontrol plays a crucial role in ensuring we have high-quality produce on our plates and “farmers must have a timely access to these solutions at scale, as well as receive adequate training on how to effectively implement them in their fields.”

Biocontrol for Biodiversity

Biocontrol products are commonly used to complement preventive and indirect plant protection measures which form the basis of sustainable farming systems. The sustainable transformation of food systems can only happen if farmers have the biodiversity-friendly tools needed for resilient, sustainable agriculture.

In a joint statement IBMA and IFOAM Organics Europe call on the European commission to build on the broad support for biocontrol and devise a “more favourable legal framework that would allow for a faster uptake of biocontrol methods as well as incentives to make independent and impartial extension services available to farmers.”

Be Part of the Plan

Europe is preparing for elections in June which are likely to change the political landscape. At this point, we cannot say what implications this will have on biodiversity and the future of food and farming.

What we can say is that biocontrol has cross – party political and Member State support.

However, current European authorisation processes are a bottleneck to unlocking the full potential of the market. Millions of farmers beyond Europe are already using biocontrol which is putting European farmers at a competitive disadvantage.

Farmers’ organisations want this to change now, not in a decade.

A plan to build back biodiversity can start by:

  • Creating a legal definition of biocontrol
  • Introducing fast track measures through targeted changes for 1107/2009 for biocontrol
  • Creating priority lanes for biocontrol in all member states

Farmers need biocontrol solutions in their toolbox without further delay. It’s time to work together and make this happen.