By Milagros Jurado
Without phytosanitaries, agro-food production would be drastically reduced by up to 50%, and it would be impossible to ensure the food needs of present and future populations, according to Antonio Vergel, president of the Colegio Oficial de Ingenieros Técnicos Agrícolas (COITAND), during the inagural day of the 14th Symposium on Plant Health, held in Seville from 25th to 27th January. Vergel regretted that a restrictive approach in Community legislation is making it difficult to register and use new products, although plant health is a key part of agricultural production. For its part, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development, Carmen Ortiz, has ensured that the Andalusian Government is working to promote plant health through aid to the Operational Groups of Innovation.
Through the Operational Groups of Innovation, public-private collaboration in the field of animal health is encouraged, bringing farmers, or industries in contact with a specific problem with researchers and companies that can provide solutions. In that sense, the Andalusian minister stressed the need to “continue research, developing new techniques and, above all, making solutions available to farmers”, stressing the importance of making proposals of projects from the sector to promote cooperation in this area.
For Ortiz, plant health is a fundamental tool to face the new challenges of agriculture today, for which it is essential to have the technical and legal means necessary to ensure the safety of consumers and the confidence of increasingly demanding markets. In this line, the COITAND president, organizer of the event, has drawn attention to the fact that less and less phytosanitary tools are available to control the weeds, pests and diseases.
Vergel also referred to the motto of the 14th Symposium: “Towards change”, highlighting the importance of adapting to aspects such as climate change, food security, environmental management, new models demanded by the market, etc., to face the future effectively and efficiently. A point in which the representative of the Andalusian Government agrees, who stressed that the Ministry of Agriculture “has the firm objective of guaranteeing the plant health of our products and the food safety of our products, as well as protecting our markets, always acting in a anticipated manner”.
Ortiz recalled that before the implementation of the Directive on the Sustainable Use of Phytosanitary Products (Royal Decree of 2012), Andalusia had already taken an important path in the fight against pests and diseases in a sustainable and safe way. As an example, she has stated that, for more than a decade, it has become mandatory to have a phytosanitary applicator card and for almost 20 years “we have been promoting sustainable production.”
In Andalusia, more than 240,000 certified phytosanitary applicators operate and almost 5,000 professionals provide advice on this matter
In addition, Carmen Ortiz has recognized the work and effort of the sector to carry out sustainable production methods, which has made it possible for Andalusia to be the first Spanish autonomous community in this field (organic production, integrated production and biological control against pests in extensive crops such as horticultural crops in Almeria).
The Minister has also listed other actions implemented by the Ministry in the field of plant health, such as the training courses that have been carried out through the Ifapa, the support offered to the Producer Groups for Integrated Production and Integrated Pest Management, as well as the advice provided by the Ministry through the Network of Alert and Phytosanitary Information (RAIF). Likewise, she has emphasized the Andalusian Government’s commitment to new areas of action “where we are referring, as is the case of Big Data or Bioeconomics.”
Finally, Carmen Ortiz has highlighted the “need to combat plagues among all”. It is essential, she added, “that producers organize and coordinate to be able to effectively control diseases of crops”. Among the threats of this type that are most worrisome today has been the Xylella Fastidiosa and the black spot of citrus. In order to prevent, control and eradicate these diseases in Andalusia, the Ministry launched the Andalusian Strategy against Xylella and the Andalusian Plan of Phytosanitary Surveillance of citrus, respectively.
Another of the participants in the inaugural event of the Symposium, Valentín Almansa, Director General of Health of Agricultural Production of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment (MAPAMA), has defined this event as a national reference and an appointment unavoidable for the professionals of the vegetal health, that counts on the support of the Ministry.
Mari Cruz Ledro, president of the National Symposium on Plant Protection, said that “challenges such as the protection of nature and human health are a challenge that a globalized world has to respond with common approaches and strategies, investments and innovative methodologies”.
Faced with this common responsibility, the training and experience of the collective of agricultural technicians is a valuable capital for the implementation of corrective solutions, transforming the weaknesses in strengths as guarantor of the best possible balance.
Mari Cruz Ledro: “the protection of human health and the environment in phytosanitary treatments is always present in real professionals”
The president of the Symposium has valued the figure of the agricultural technician as “essential in a sector that requires a great preparation and that is governed increasingly by business criteria of integral quality. The professionalism of the agrarian activity forces to seek advice “.
Carlos León, coordinator of the Symposium, has highlighted the integrative work of the Symposium as the main national forum on plant health.
In his paper “Global Vision for the Future of Plant Protection”, Valentín Almansa, Director General of Health of Agricultural Production of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment (MAPAMA), said that plant health is a matter for everyone . “When we talk about health, we talk about profitability and therefore, market” and highlighted the role of the Administration as guarantor of crop safety, while appealing to the responsibility of the producer in the control and communication of the possible problems that may exist in crops, being the main actor in the control of pests.
He also spoke about the challenges and opportunities of globalization, including, in particular, border control. Almansa also highlighted some priority lines of work that go through strengthening external and internal monitoring to promote plant health.
MAPAMA is firmly committed to developing the strategy for the sustainable use of plant protection products in Spain, as set out in Community legislation
César González de Miguel, a phytosanitary policy advisor at COPA-COGECA, highlighted at the conference “European Farmers’ Vision on Plant Health” that COPA-COGECA has welcomed the package of legislative proposals on ” Smart for healthy food “in order to modernize and simplify existing regulations. The main achievement it envisages to achieve is an efficient system that allows better control of imports without hindering international trade. It underlined the commitment of EU farmers and cooperatives to provide healthy and safe food for citizens and consumers. But at the same time they advocate increasing the availability of tools for the farmer in view of the limitations on viable alternatives for pest and disease management.
César González: “the use or not of an active substance must be a technical decision and does not have to be dictated by the Public Opinion”
In his view, “if we have fewer tools for pest and disease control, we will no longer be competitive with third countries that can use the vast majority of active substances.”
On the other hand, Carlos Palomar, Director General of AEPLA, explained in “European-level vision of the phytosanitary industry” that “the phytosanitary industry, both European and Spanish, is a committed, highly regulated sector whose base is innovation. Without innovation, it is impossible to deal with pests, diseases and weeds, something especially significant for Spanish agriculture, a leader in the export of fruits and vegetables”. He also stressed that “plant health is not a whim but something as essential as human health.”
In order to do this, in its opinion, a regulatory system is needed that encourages innovation and is not based exclusively on the precautionary principle. Also that dowload resources to those in charge of authorizing products because the current system, Regulation 1107 is on the way to collapse.
Palomar: “creating an autonomous agency for the registration of new substances is fundamental to face the future”
In the afternoon, Bibiana Rodríguez, Assistant Deputy Director General of MAPAMA, has addressed the national and community regulatory situation of biostimulants.
Emilio Rodríguez, Deputy Head of the European Commission’s Agrarian Economy Unit, explained “the economic impact analysis of EU climate change and plant health policies”. He presented the tools and applications used in the Economy and Agriculture unit of the JRC (JointResearch Center), located in Seville. The possible role of economic models in the development of priority pest lists for the EU based on their socio-economic impact has been discussed.
As a close to the day, Judit Anda, technical advisor of the Vice-Ministry of Agriculture, talked about the bioeconomy and plant health. States such as Spain have developed National Strategies for Bioeconomics, and autonomous communities such as Andalusia have decided to develop an Bioeconomy Strategy taking into account the opportunities of the region especially for its potential in biomass. The new programming of European funds in Andalusia takes into account the bioeconomics in the development of rural development policies.
The productive systems linked to the bio-economy are being promoted by the European Commission as a new business model that allows to respond to the social and economic challenges of the current society
But what is behind the term “bioeconomics”? For the EU it means an economy that uses the biological resources of land, sea, waste, as inputs for food production, feed, for industrial and energy production.
In the EU, the bio-economy already has a turnover of around € 2 trillion and employs more than 22 million people, 9% of the total EU employment
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➡️ Support for a single evaluation agency of plant protection products. AEPLA, ASAJA, UPA, Cooperative, FEPEX, IBMA