The third edition of the Foodlog ‘Agriculture without chemicals – How?’ congress was held at Koppert Biological Systems headquarters on 27 February. This year the congress focused on Plant Health, to coincide with the United Nations' International Year of Plant Health. The initial debate on the regulatory burden for biocontrol products broadened to include topics like sustainability, the cost of producing food, the role of banks and retail.
In his opening address, Koppert’s Corporate Marketing Director, Peter Maes, stated: ‘We urgently need more dialogue on all levels, better-informed citizens when it comes to food safety, and a responsible food chain with a minimal impact on the environment and society. We need more activism to drive the change. Who is in?’ he enquired.
The congress was attended by about 170 representatives from the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, local authorities, academics, environmental NGOs, companies in food production and retail, and farmers – both conventional and sustainable – who took part in interactive debates on three themes:
‘How do we limit the use of chemical agents in horticulture and agriculture?’, ‘Renewing authorization procedures of sustainable solutions, and ‘How do you connect retail and other trading partners, farmers and government in order to fund new innovations’.
‘Although Koppert and parties like LTO, Agrifirm, WUR, Artemis and others initiated a review of the legal situation and came with a set of suggestions for regulatory improvements in 2019, a real change has not (yet) been achieved’, stated Evert Hamblok, Koppert’s Manager Regulatory Affairs. ‘It would be better to set goals for increased use of biologicals and environmentally friendly products rather than setting EU goals for the reduction of chemical pesticides by 2030. An improved and faster approval system for biologicals is inevitable.’
Member of the European Parliament for the ‘greens’, Bas Eickhout, stressed that more attention was needed for IPM before opening up regulations. He quoted several reports of the European Court of Auditors that concluded that policy incentives to reduce the amount of pesticides had failed. ‘It is indispensable to incorporate the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the Green Deal. Agriculture can have a great impact in making Europe more sustainable,’ said Eickhout. Although Eickhout is not in favour of adjusting regulations, he was positive about initiating a Green Team that could judge crop protection products that are based on micro-organisms.
During the keynote panel Marc Jansen (CBL), Roelof Bisschop (SGP), Jürgen Köhl (WUR) and Nicolette Klijnhout-Klijn (Skal Biocontrole) discussed how supermarkets could contribute to more sustainable agriculture. ‘It is of great importance to formulate a long term strategy since farmers do not know where they stand. A change to sustainable agriculture will take at least 1 generation,’ said Roelof Bisschop.