EU regulations obstruct biological crop protection

November 26, 2019

Crop protection agents must become more sustainable. The EU and the Dutch government therefore accord preference to biological agents that work on the basis of micro-organisms and insects. However, new research conducted by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and other institutes reveals that EU regulations make it unnecessarily expensive, cumbersome and time-consuming to admit new biological crop protection agents. Fewer sustainable agents based on micro-organisms are entering the market as a result. This poses an obstacle to the rapid, green transition of agriculture. The findings of this study have been published in the scientific journal BioControl.

The study that has now been published – carried out by Jürgen Köhl (WUR), Kees Booij (WUR), Rogier Kolnaar (Linge Agroconsultancy B.V) and Willem Ravensberg (Koppert Biological Systems) – focuses on the relevance of certain EU conditions for the admission of biological crop protection agents. In this respect conditions governing persistence, amongst other things, are involved. An important conclusion is that the requirements for such agents are excessively strict in a large number of cases. Consequently, at present it can take as long as five years to admit a biological pesticide.

Earlier this year virtually the same team of researchers published an article in Frontiers in Plant Science about the mechanism of action of various types of microbial crop protection agents and the risks involved.

Faster, more affordable admission

Jürgen Köhl (WUR), the main researcher, has this to say: "In both publications we scientifically prove that biological agents should be assessed differently from chemical protection agents. This is because this does not happen at present. As a result, the availability of sustainable protection agents is lagging behind. In order to take concrete steps towards sustainable agriculture, biological agents need to be admitted more quickly and affordably."

However, there is still a long way to go, as is evident from the interim evaluation set out in the sustainability memorandum published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality last June, 'Gezonde Groei, Duurzame Oogst' [Healthy Growth, Sustainable Harvests] (covering the period from 2013 to 2023). Its conclusion was that the ecological quality of surface water has not improved sufficiently and that biodiversity is being squeezed.

Environmentally friendly alternative

Biological crop protection products need to offer an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical protection agents in European agriculture and horticulture. A switch to biological protection will be of benefit to the quality of surface water and biodiversity.

Read the publications:

This research has been conducted as part of the project, ''Kennisopbouw en integratie t.b.v. efficiënte ontwikkeling en toelating van groene gewasbeschermingsmiddelen (PPS Green Deal)', funded by Topsector Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmaterialen.