France’s Ministry of Agriculture launched its agroecology project in 2012 with the ambition of tracing a path for the future of French agriculture, which should contribute to the issue of agriculture at the global level: guaranteeing food security and increasing production while preserving natural resources and biodiversity. The agroecology project is also about rising to the challenge of reconciling the ecological issue with the economic: How do we produce better while preserving the environment?
The use of phytopharmaceutical chemicals is one of the top priorities of this project: solutions must be found to reduce dependence on these products, which use fossil energy and leave a footprint on human and environmental health. Therefore an Ecophyto plan with the objective of reducing the use of pesticides and other chemical products by half in the agricultural industry and in yards, gardens and other areas, by 2025 has been launched.
For the first time since its implementation in 2008, a decrease of 2.7% in sales of pesticides and other chemical has been observed between 2014 and 2015.
Moreover a network of 1,900 test farms has shown for the second consecutive year that it is possible to reduce the use of these products without having an impact on productivity or farm profits. This network has seen decreases in pesticide use of 18% across the board, with a 25% reduction in vegetable crops, 12% in wine production, and 33% in horticulture.
With the Ecophyto II plan, published in October 2015, the French government intends to go from demonstration to action through the implementation of the practices used by the test farms (DEPHY farms), which allow for the decreased use of these types of products while still guaranteeing competitiveness. This new plan, which consolidates all of the central actions already in place, brings updated answers to move forward on the reduction of phytopharmaceutical products.
First, it puts the emphasis on the widespread use of techniques that have been proven to work for reducing the use of these products. The Ecophyto II plan is also based on the promotion of the practices used by the DEPHY farms to 30,000 farmers in collective and individual projects to reduce phytopharmaceutical products. In order to achieve this ambitious goal, in addition to the 41 million euros ($43 million) in annual funding at the national level, the plan also benefits from an additional 30 million euros ($31 million) per year in each of France’s regions in order to help farmers adjust to changes in their practices.