Nearly all forms of European agriculture depend in some measure on the effective and safe management and use of crop protection tools to combat pests, diseases, and weeds.
This is not just done to ensure that crop losses are kept to a minimum, but also with the vital objective of securing a safe food supply for global consumption.However, the vast majority of these products have achieved a negative reputation throughout Europe, when it comes to conventional farming tools.
The reputation of conventional crop protection products, the balance between risk and hazard and the collision between agriculture and environment mean that crop protection remains a highly controversial. In 2015, the issue of endocrine disruption (the possible effects of chemicals on the human hormone system) meant the 2014 roadmap established by the Commission is being followed, with more than 400 synthetic substances provided for the agricultural production being examined for endocrine disruption effects. This includes the azole class of crop protection chemicals which are a vital part of the struggle against fungal infections in wheat.
After last year’s public battle of neonicotinoids, the battlefield moved on to the issue of glyphosates, which was noted as “probably carcinogenic” on the basis of “limited evidence” by the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. However, the European Food Safety Authority could not identify any chronic or acute risks for consumers, but requested further information from producers regarding its fate in the environment.
The use of crop protection products will always remain a controversial subject that will attract highly charged ethical debates over their uses and effects. Europe recognises, though, that their use is essential for its safe food supplies.