Q&A with Jean Charles Bocquet, managing director of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA)
1/ What is ECPA and what are its objectives?
ECPA is the professional body that represents the plant protection sector in Europe. Its members (21 companies and 32 national associations) are committed to the daily challenge of developing and promoting modern solutions that protect crops against pests and diseases in order to secure the production of healthy food that is financially viable. ECPA members support science-based regulatory measures that include evaluations and management decisions based on a risk-benefit analysis of all the proposed solutions in order to guarantee a high level of safety for humans and for the environment.
2/ What issues do the different projects ECPA is working on tackle?
Which are aimed at producers and which at consumers? ECPA and its members’ daily involvement with regulatory documents and product support is not sufficiently known by the public at large or by politicians. In order to change this, we launched our HUNGRY FOR CHANGE project (known in French as soif de changement) at the end of 2011. This is a clear expression of our will to change things, not only in relation to civil society but also internally, through more sharing of all the initiatives on the ground. For instance, we are coordinating 12 specific projects in the fields of food, water, biodiversity and health. All these projects aim to prove through concrete actions that modern plant protection solutions make it possible to reconcile competitiveness and sustainability. They are often implemented in partnership with the authorities, research institutes, distributors and farmers, and also with NGOs. Their aim is to promote the collective development of good product use practices through training and a network of demonstration farms. We want to work with all the stakeholders involved in sustainable production methods.
3/ Do ECPA projects pay particular attention to the fruit and vegetable sector?
The fruit and vegetable sector is important for ECPA in more than one way! Many crops are sold “as is” in fruit and vegetable sections or directly by the farmers in short chain circuits. With the farmers, we therefore need to ensure that the product use instructions have been followed properly in order to comply with the maximum residue level regulations. That is why we have set up specific programs to train farmers and technical staff in how to comply with good practice. We also know that many crops lack effective solutions for combating numerous parasite problems. We welcome the new European secretariat to coordinate minor uses, set up thanks to the collective efforts of the sector. The European commission, France, the Netherlands and Germany have collectively pledged €700,000 to ensure the start-up of this secretariat and the ECPA members have undertaken to contribute their technical expertise in order to address unforeseen minor uses as quickly as possible, thanks to our experience in the different member states.
4/ What is your view of the evolution of complementary means of protection?
Society’s expectations favour using non-chemical plant protection methods. This is also one of the aims of the ECOPHYTO plan in France. At the European level, integrated crop protection has been part of the member states’ commitments since January 2014. ECPA and its members did not wait for these political decisions before committing themselves to researching and readying real solution packages: variety research for the seed teams, biocontrol solutions, decision-making tools, and chemical solutions obtained by pure synthesis or by copying natural molecules such as pheromones. An increasingly important part of our work is to seek out biocontrol products. In some member states, nearly 50% of the biocontrol products or the solutions approved for organic farming are supplied by ECPA members. Nowadays, this complementarity of control methods, combining agronomy, biocontrol, monitoring and decision-making and chemical control, responds to the objective of competitive, sustainable fruit and vegetable growing.
From edition 135 of Eurofresh Distribution magazine.