The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) «Save Bees and Farmers» has gathered the support of 1,161,257 citizens, who have signed the petition to completely phase out synthetic pesticides in the EU by 2035 and support farmers to make the transition to environmentally friendly farming practices. A «historic» result according to the initiative’s organizators.

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«Save Bees and Farmers»: two years of demands

The ECI ‘Save Bees and Farmers’ alliance – a network of civil society organisations in agriculture, health and environmental protection – is calling on the European Commission to propose legislation to phase out synthetic pesticides by 2035, to restore biodiversity, and to support farmers in the transition. In a context where the pesticide industry threatens biodiversity, more than 200 organisations have been supporting the iniciative to demand:

  • Phase out synthetic pesticides in EU agriculture by 80% by 2030, starting with the most hazardous, to become 100% free of synthetic pesticides by 2035.
  • Restore natural ecosystems in agricultural areas.
  • Massive support for the agricultural transition towards agroecology, prioritising small-scale and sustainable agriculture, with an increase in agroecological and GMO-free practices.

The initiative has attracted widespread support from European citizens. With more than 1.16 million signatures collected across the EU, the initiative has the potential to be a historic success. If the ECI is validated by the European Commission, both the European Commission and the European Parliament will have to respond to citizens’ demands for pollinator-friendly, synthetic pesticide-free agriculture.

«A historic success for the protection of human health and the environment»

A difficult but successful campaign

Although the campaign has been hampered by the Covid-19 crisis, the organisers celebrate the high number of signatures as «a historic success for the protection of human health and the environment». Sonia Conchon, from the Save Bees and Farmers office, says: «The Covid situation has made this campaign very difficult due to the lack of visibility, as there were no public events during most of the campaign. Therefore, reaching the million mark really reflects the determination of the public for this second ECI against pesticides».

«This ECI sends a clear message to the EU, European citizens support the pesticide reduction target of the European Green Deal, but demand that the proposed 50% reduction is more ambitious, as science shows that it will not prevent the collapse of biodiversity. The goal 15 years from now must be agriculture without synthetic pesticides», says Dr. Helmut Burtscher-Schaden, campaigner at Global2000, Friends of the Earth Austria, and representative of the citizens’ committee of the ECI.

Miguel Díaz, head of Biodiversity at Friends of the Earth, highlights the importance of the links between agriculture and biodiversity loss: «in a scenario of ecological emergency, such as the one we are living in, it is necessary to change the agricultural production system. We need to promote agroecology to adapt to and mitigate global change, and we must use all the tools at our disposal».

The overall success of the campaign in the European Union has been reflected in Spain, which has collected 50,566 signatures

Over 50 milion signatures in Spain

The overall success of the campaign in the European Union has been reflected in Spain, which has collected 50,566 signatures, 125% of those required by the European Commission. In view of these figures, Ecologistas en Acción, one of the Spanish organisations behind the project, considers that having reached more than one million signatures and having surpassed 50,000 signatures in Spain should be enough to rectify the policy being developed by Luis Planas’ Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. In the words of the environmental organisation: «Serious measures must be taken to drastically reduce the authorisations of these products that do so much damage to biodiversity and human health».

Next step: institutional validation

After the collection of signatures, the petition is now in the European institutions’ hands, -the European Commission and the European Parliament-, which will have to decide whether or not to validate the petition. If so, the «Save Bees and Farmers» campaign will be a historic success. So far, only 6 out of 108 ECIs launched have been successfully validated by the European Commission (less than 6%).

An ECI is accepted by the European Commission if it reaches more than one million validated signatures. Its approval obliges the European Commission to analyse and respond to the demands made by citizens. For its part, the European Parliament will have to hold a hearing with the seven members of the Citizens’ Committee and will have the possibility to draft and vote on a resolution based on their demands.

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