Update on the Sustainable Use Regulation from Jennifer Lewis, Executive Director

Dear Member,
We are experiencing turbulent times in Brussels and around Europe. Farmers are protesting in record numbers and policymakers are reacting. In a shock moment, Ursula von der Leyen proposed to withdraw the Sustainable Use Regulation (SUR). We expect the College of Commissioners to accept this. IBMA is now urging the Commission to work on a new proposal.

What happened to the SUR?

The Belgian Presidency, European Commission civil servants of all levels and Member States including Germany were stunned when European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that she will withdraw the SUR on 6 February 2024.

In a step believed to be a response to the protests as well as pressure from the European People’s Party, (EPP) Von der Leyen noted “the SUR proposal has become a symbol of polarisation.” Expressing his disappointment at this “missed opportunity” Pascal Canfin, President of the EP Environment Committee said the intention was to revise the text and focus on “significantly accelerating authorization procedures for biocontrol products and allowing the reasoned use of precision farming tools”. Given that biocontrol has consistently received cross-party support, this could have been a moment to provide farmers with the tools they urgently need to remain competitive and productive.

What has been achieved?

Regardless of political wrangling, farmers will continue to feel the impact of climate change, biodiversity loss and soil degradation. Biocontrol is now at the center of the debate in discussions on the solutions needed for the future of farming. Last July, a European Commission study acknowledged “the potential of alternatives, including biocontrol, as a key contribution to achieving pesticide reduction targets” and suggested to amend 1107:

  • Allow provisional authorisations for biological control products
  • Approvals of biological control active substances could be made unlimited in time

More recently, MEP Irène Tolleret, Renew, and other cross-party MEPS, sent a written question to the European Commission which the Commission is obliged to answer. She states that “biocontrol is needed to help farmers make the ecological transition” and asks if it is not time to make targeted changes to 1107 and if it would be appropriate to introduce more specific regulations covering the four biocontrol categories.

Unite and Move Forward

IBMA is now building on widespread support and political momentum to push the case for biocontrol forward.

  • Currently, the Strategic Dialogue on the Future of Agriculture is taking place and we have called for an initiative in this parliament to deliver a phase one proposal including alternatives such as biocontrol and drones to give farmers the modern technologies they need.
  • We are speaking up for biocontrol in the Civil Dialogue Group workshops on CAP which will feed into the Strategic Dialogue.
  • Together with, the advocacy working group we have developed policy asks to support biocontrol for the next EU Commission Work Programme that include modification of 1107 to ensure a fast track for biocontrol, dedicated legislation for biocontrol, and to ensure a full toolbox for farmers.

Although there have been disheartening developments, there have also been a lot of achievements. Biocontrol is broadly recognized as a key solution needed to grow food within planetary boundaries. In Europe, there is a political momentum on which we can capitalize and continue to push for a faster authorization process in the short term as well as a new regulation for biocontrol in the longer term.

Best wishes,

Jennifer Lewis, IBMA Executive Director