France’s bold scheme to transform distributors of plant protection products into ‘agents of change’, encouraging their customers to use alternatives to synthetic chemical products, is underway. Under the scheme, distributors are obliged to drive the move towards more sustainable crop protection, earning Certificats d’Economie de Produits Phytopharmaceutiques (CEPP or pesticide savings certificates) for prompting clients to use a range of officially approved alternatives.
Nearly 30 alternative approaches have so far been published, with up to 60 additional measures under consideration. These measures include, for example, the replacement of synthetic chemical pesticides with biocontrol products for fungi and nematode control, physical measures such as the use of nets to protect apple crops against codling moth and the introduction of new technology, such as a Decision Support System to optimise fungicide treatments.
The scheme covers all those who sell plant protection products used for agricultural purposes to professional users in mainland France (seed treatments and biocontrol products are excluded). Each distributor is obliged to push the official alternatives such as those described above and each action earns a specific certificate ‘score’ (the scheme works similarly to energy savings certificates or ‘white’ certificates).
The target number for certificates set for distributors is 20% of their pesticide sales, based on average sales over the past five years, with the highest and lowest years excluded. Describing the period until 2021 as a ‘launch pad’, France’s Ministry of Agriculture plans to introduce financial penalties from 2021 of €5 for each certificate not obtained, capped at a maximum €5 million per company.
Though the scheme does not currently include agricultural advisers and farmers, they can sign up if they wish and will be able to sell (or negotiate benefits or even give!) the certificates they obtain to distributors.
The French government has described the CEPP scheme as “unique in the world to reduce the dependence of our agriculture on plant protection products” and set a national target of 17.65 million CEPPs by 2021, with a mid-term review expected by January 1, 2020.
Further details of the scheme and the approved actions can be found on EcophytoPIC, France’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) portal. Here, the actions are described for each crop type (arable, vegetables etc.) and each alternative approach (biocontrol, equipment etc.), alongside helpful sheets designed to support agricultural advisers.
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