Confronted with increasing health and environmental impacts, France and the European Union have set ambitious targets to reduce the use of pesticides in agriculture (notably through the French Ecophyto plan).

However, the pesticide use in France has continued to increase significantly over the past 10 years, even though the technical feasibility of pesticide reduction is largely documented.

How to explain this failure? To what extent public and private financing play a role in changing or maintaining agricultural systems that largely use pesticides?

These are the main research questions of our latest study carried out on behalf of the Nicolas Hulot Foundation and published today.

First finding: in a context of dualization of French agriculture, the increase of the use of pesticides since 2009 is only due to a minority of farms (9%), which mainly produce field crops (cereals, oilseed and protein crops), and whose cumulated number and cultivated land area are fast growing.

Second finding: our analysis shows that public support and private funding mechanisms do not follow the growing societal demand for food products without pesticides.

In 2018 only 11% of public funding had a direct or indirect intention to reduce the use of pesticides: 2.7 billion euros out of the 23.2 billion euros public support to the actors of the French food system (among them, the budgets of the Ecophyto plan – the main public tool for reducing pesticides – represent only 0.3% of total public support). Moreover, less than 1% of the total amount of public support have proven effects in terms of pesticides reduction.

Regarding the private financing of French agricultural and agrifood players, they hardly include any sustainability criteria and remain mainly driven by conventional market signals.

To change this situation, the Nicolas Hulot Foundation recommends, on the one hand, to give greater responsibility to the actors of the French food sector by establishing a progressive bonus-malus based on the “polluter-pays principle”, and on the other hand, to reorient the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) towards the protection of biodiversity by allocating more resources to organic agriculture, to payments for environmental services, and to local food projects driven by local authorities.

 

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