b'THE RISK CORNER BY: DAVID ZARUK2023: AN ACTIVIST ANNUS HORRIBILIS2 023 was a horrible year for thereduction followed innovations and other4. A DISUNITED FRONTEuropean environmental activistweed control practices, it would be likelyThe activist community has excelled at community. On pesticides, theirthe European Council would have takenspeaking with a single voice on policy StopGlyphosate campaign failed to res- that route. Instead, they simply said Nodebates. But on NGTs, there has never onate with regulators as the Europeanand stood firm while farmers expressed howbeen a clear, unified position. A decade Commission reauthorised the herbicidethey had no viable alternatives. ago, there was a robust debate on whether for another 10 years. The Sustainable Usecertain plant breeding techniques could Regulation (SUR) was rejected in the2. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS fall under the organic farming regime. European Parliament, throwing the EUsThe European Parliament Sustainable UseThe radical, anti-industry fringe forced Farm2Fork ambitions into disarray. On seedRegulation (SUR) Rapporteur, Greenthe NGTs are GMO 2.0 position breeding, the EU is moving forward withMEP Sarah Weiner, acknowledged thatthrough and that rift has never healed. plans to no longer regulate new genomicthe pesticide reduction objectives were verySo as the Commission started to con-techniques (NGTs) as GMOs, allowing forambitious. The organic farmer had calledsider relaxing restrictions on NGTs to easier market access of gene-edited plantsfor an 80 per cent reduction in pesticidesoffset the potential negative yields from while preventing EU Member States frombut then told journalists at a press confer- Farm2Fork restrictions, the NGOs cam-banning NGTs. ence that I know that as a Green, I have topaigning against pesticides sat on their How did these long-running NGOaim high because whatever we propose willhands. Factions within the organic food campaigns fail so badly so quickly? Thisonly be weakened or shot down. The pointlobby are getting even more pronounced is especially astonishing given how thesehere is that activists aiming for an 80 perwith the growth of the agroecological non-profits have been growing so rapidlycent reduction are mobilizing opponents tomovement.in terms of number, influence, funding andtake action. If Weiner had started with a public impact. Until 2023, they were defin- 40 per cent reduction, she could have got,5. NARROW NETWORKSing the narrative and shaping the policyperhaps, 25 per cent. As long as activistsI sometimes wonder whether these process in Brussels while industry andhave unrealistic expectations, they will endactivist groups, with their wide net-researchers were on the defensive. Havingup going home with nothing. works, were relying too much on too developed into such a professional lobbyingfew influential individuals. When Frans force, the Brussels NGOs should not have3. SLURS AND INSULTS Timmermans left Brussels to pursue made so many serious mistakes. Here are aDuring a European Parliament hearinga career in Dutch politics, the activists few of them. on glyphosate, on 18 September 2023,lost an important advocate. An IFOAM hosted by two Green Party MEPs, I wasnewsletter touted him as their man in 1. ZERO COMPROMISE surprised to hear the head scientist fromBrussels when he was given the Green Environmental activists are idealists, truePesticide Action Network accuse theDeal dossier. Timmermans had alienated believers, fighting to save the planet. WhileEuropean Chemical Agency (ECHA) ofenough people to encourage a retaliatory this passion and zeal powers them to pushlying. At that event, there was a clear con- reaction against his legacy. According to hard in their campaigns, they also cannotflict between the regulators and the activistelection results, even the Dutch werent consider compromising on their ideals (some- groups (who brought in their own scientiststhat happy to have him back.thing the policy process aims to achieve).with little respect for the regulatory scienceI was quite surprised with the fail-NGOs campaigning for zero pesticides aredone at ECHA and the European Foodures of the activist campaigns. The envi-not going to accept a conditional, phasedSafety Authority (EFSA). Belligerenceronmental movement needs to assess their reduction of crop protection tools. Theiragainst those determining policies you aretactics and consider whether their ideology intransigence in cases where viable alterna- campaigning on is basic mistake most first- has pushed up against consumer resist-tives dont exist (like the case of glyphosate)year lobbying students would have known.ance. With European elections coming up meant their position has less impact. During the previous EU glyphosate reau- in the spring, the anticipated shift to the With glyphosate, if the NGOs hadthorisation process in 2017, the enemy was(extreme) right might have as much to do drafted an alternative policy of phasingindustry and activists, with their Monsantowith certain Green Party policies as with out the use of the herbicide over 10 years,Papers campaign, were able to keep regula- reactions to specific events.with clear milestones where glyphosatetors supporting glyphosate on the backfoot.There are lessons here to be learned. SEEDWORLD.COM/EUROPEISEED WORLD EUROPE I 13'