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EU member states approve new rules for biocontrol agents (BCAs)

23 February 2022 Alan Bullion

EU member states approve new rules to facilitate the use of micro-organisms in crop protection products

The legislation will simplify the approval process for biocontrol agents (BCAs) across the EU

The European Commission hopes this will contribute to their Farm to Fork strategy ambition of reducing conventional pesticide use across the bloc

EU member states have approved new rules to facilitate the approval of micro-organisms for use as active ingredients (AIS) in crop protection products. Member states endorsed four implementing regulations that will simplify the process of approval of biocontrol agents (BCAs) under the EU agrochemical registration Regulation (1107/2009).

The implementing regulations will be scrutinised by the European Parliament and the Council next. If they do not object, the regulations will be adopted and be applicable in the fourth quarter of 2022, most likely by November.

Regulation 1107/2009 was designed for chemical AIS and there have long been calls for specific rules for biopesticides. The Commission outlined plans in early 2020 to set new criteria for pesticides based on micro-organisms. Calls for faster action in this area have intensified since the Commission set use-reduction targets for chemical pesticides in its Farm to Fork strategy.

Significantly reducing the use of chemical pesticides is one of the goals of the EU's Farm to Fork strategy, which charts the transition to a sustainable food system, the Commission points out. "Under the Farm to Fork Strategy, we have committed to reduce by 50% the use of chemical pesticides by 2030 and to do so, it is crucial that we provide alternatives that respect our planet and our health," said EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

The new rules follow a different approach based on the biology and ecology of each micro-organism and take into account the most recent scientific knowledge, the European Commission says. That way, the rules are more "fit-for-purpose" and flexible. The biological properties of the micro-organisms play a central role for the risk assessment and many data required in the new implementing acts are conditional to the biology and ecology of the particular micro-organism.

The Commission points out that more "fit for purpose" and flexible requirements imply streamlined application dossiers, more straightforward risk assessment, and shorter timelines to get access to the EU market.

There are currently over 60 micro-organisms approved for crop protection use in the EU. However, companies such as Israel-based STK have recently commented that approval for new BCA products in the EU, such as for fruit and vegetable crops in Mediterranean countries remains "very difficult".

The UK, having originally been a biologicals pioneer, is also a now becoming a tougher environment with more hurdles, despite the new opportunities for diverging from Brussels from Brexit, with regulatory policy firmly focused on gene-edited seeds and crops following a government consultation launched last year.

Brazil remains the most permissive global environment for developing and approving new BCAs, followed by China and North America, although California and Canada remain more challenging, according to our latest analysis.

Posted 23 February 2022 by Alan Bullion, Director of Special Reports & Projects, Agribusiness, S&P Global Commodity Insights




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