Experts weed out flaws in France’s revamped plan to cut pesticides

France is once again facing pushback over its strategy to reduce pesticides. After rolling out version three of its Ecophyto 2030 plan – shelved in February at the height of angry farmer protests – green groups this week joined forces in urging the government to choose public health, not cancer.

The backbone of France's broader agricultural shift towards agro-ecology, Ecophyto has consistently failed to meet its objective to halve pesticide use since it was first rolled out in 2008.

Farmers, faced with economic pressures and other industry challenges, have found the switch to alternative methods of pest control daunting – complaining there are not enough incentives or support.

Sixteen years on, the same problems persist.

New metrics

The government says its plan, unveiled on Monday, is different because it strives to eliminate the most toxic products, while funnelling 250 millions a year into equipment to protect crops and research into alternative products.

While the target to cut pesticide use by 50 percent before the end of the decade is intact, the path to getting there has changed.

France’s old system for measuring pesticides, which counted each dose equally regardless of the toxicity level, has been replaced with a European tool called the Harmonized Risk Indicator (HRI-1), which gives more weight to doses of dangerous pesticides.

Critics say the new evaluation method, which does not provide information on how many doses are used, might make it seem like farmers are using fewer pesticides than they really are – and offer a false impression of progress.

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