Nov. 26, 2007
The EU's agricultural policy, and its approach to agrochemicals and genetically modified crops, is driving its biggest pesticide companies away. The warning comes from Syngenta chairman Mark Taylor and echoes concerns voiced last year over the reform of the EU agrochemical registration Directive (91/414). Mr Taylor spoke at the EU's High Level Conference on Business & Biodiversity in Lisbon, Portugal, in November.
"Syngenta now does all its most advanced research in the US, and China will be next," warned Mr Taylor. He highlighted the EU's "lack of progress" towards a "knowledge-based economy" as outlined in the EU's 2000 Lisbon Agenda. Research and development efforts are constrained by strict EU regulations or national bans on research, such as GM crop field trials.
He blamed the EU and its member states, specifically France, for their "retreat from scientific reason" on agrochemical and GM crop technologies. France, the continent's largest agricultural producer, suspended the cultivation of GM crops last month and aims to halve the sale of pesticide active ingredients by 2009.
Mr Taylor also cited the proposed move away from risk-based evaluation systems towards hazard-based ones as problematic. He described the latter as being based on "fear and ignorance". The policy move has received heavy industry criticism amid fears of hampered competition.
He warned that the EU may be moving from a "selfish" agricultural policy, with reference to trade practices, to an "irresponsible" one. Mr Taylor stressed the need to harness technology in the face of greater agricultural demand and fewer resources. This requirement is compounded by growing meat consumption in developing countries, and subsequent wheat demand, as well as climate change. "The fact that bien-pensant people in Europe recoil in horror at any mention of crop chemicals or GM crops does not alter what I understand is now called an inconvenient truth."