Policymakers must make evidence-based decisions on EU food production, argues Jean-Philippe Azoulay

Written by Jean-Philippe Azoulay on 7 October 2016 in Thought Leader
Thought Leader

Real danger that politicians are sleep-walking into a food production crisis, warns crop protection industry chief

I join the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) at a crucial moment for the future of agriculture in the European Union.

Decisions being made in Brussels right now will define what we eat and how food is produced; setting standards that will have immediate and long-term implications for our society.

Sustainable food production is a massive global challenge and I am fortunate to represent an industry that makes a significant contribution to achieving this.

I firmly believe that we need to do more to tell the story of the benefits our industry brings to society - and we are trying to do this with our recently launched #WithOrWithout campaign - but this is a story that keeps being lost in the current environment where politics is consistently undermining science and evidence based decision making within the EU.


One need only look at the recent example of glyphosate, where regulatory authorities around the world, the European Food Safety Authority, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and 90,000 pages of evidence confirmed it should be reapproved, yet EU member states could not agree; or the current discussion on endocrine disruptors, where the European Commission has chosen the policy option that places the highest burden and impact on agricultural production, without any increase in protection for health and the environment over the other less burdensome options available to it.

 I am a Frenchman, I am proud of the passion and tradition of food in my country. It’s an inherent part of our culture. But in the background there are French farmers facing up to a 75 per cent drop in their wheat yield this year and challenging conditions for wine growers.

But all the while the French government is taking positions nationally and in Brussels which limit farmers’ access to the tools they need - such as dimethoate to fight the Suzukii fly which has decimated cherry production this year, sending costs up by nearly 20 per cent.

This is just France - you need only look at a recent report highlighting the precarious position our food production system potentially finds itself in, which concludes that farmers could lose up to 85 per cent of their crops if certain pesticides are taken off the market.

There is a real danger that politicians are sleep-walking into a food production crisis, with significant consequences for the environment, trade, production and the economy, impacting on impacting on every one of us, from the farmer to the consumer.

We acknowledge there are public concerns about our sector, and we are working hard to address them, but just as we are urging the public to look at the evidence before passing judgement, we would urge you as policymakers to do the same.

Sometimes the long term consequences of short term decisions are not clear: let’s be sure that future legislation is fit for everyone, not just the few.

About the author

Jean-Philippe Azoulay is Director General of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA)

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