Dossiers - Sustainable food systems
Filling the gaps in plant protection with emergency authorisations
The number of emergency authorisations issued to protect plant health is increasing in proportion to the number of pending applications for authorisation of more modern and environmentally friendly plant protection products. The authorisation procedure takes an average of eight years. This is an innovation backlog Swiss agriculture cannot afford.
For innovations in crop protection to have a positive effect, they must find their way to the market quickly. This is not the case in Switzerland today: although our country follows the decisions of the EU in withdrawing active plant protection products, it does not do so in terms of authorisation in the EU. As a result, neither equivalent nor better products find their way onto the Swiss market, gaps open up in disease, weed and pest control.
Emergency authorisations only a temporary solution
To ensure that affected crops can continue to be produced regionally and for the Swiss market, the legislation allows applications for emergency authorisations. The authorisation body can authorise plant protection products for limited and controlled use if such a measure proves necessary in view of a plant health risk that cannot be averted in any other way. The Confederation has recognised the problem and intends to close the gap indications in the Plant Protection Action Plan.
The consequences of the thinning out of protection options for crops should not be underestimated. In vegetable production in particular, individual crops can no longer be grown in line with the market and to cover costs due to a lack of protection against pest infestation. As a result, the variety of food produced in Switzerland is shrinking. The emergency authorisation of partly outdated plant protection products is therefore only a temporary solution.
Modern, integrated plant protection is necessary
Modern, integrated plant protection is indispensable for food security and the cultivation of diverse, regionally produced food. The adoption of EU approval decisions for plant protection products would be a key measure: this would allow Swiss farmers to benefit from innovations in plant protection in step with EU countries. This has not been the case for several years due to the very slow Swiss approval process.
In law enforcement, the federal government bases its assessment of active substances directly on the corresponding EU regulation and the assessment of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Accordingly, Switzerland would also have to recognise the EU approval of new active substances and products and allow them to be approved in Switzerland, taking national legislation into account. This is precisely what Parliamentary Initiative 22.441 by National Councillor Philipp Bregy, which has been approved by the Committee for Economic Affairs and Taxation. It is to be hoped that the sister commission will follow suit and pave the way for future-oriented, sustainable plant protection.
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