Angry farmers: what is Nodu, the indicator at the heart of the standoff with environmental NGOs?

Angry farmers: what is Nodu, the indicator at the heart of the standoff with environmental NGOs?

The discussions were cut short. Invited to a consultative meeting this Monday at the Ministry of Agriculture around the Ecophyto 2030 plan, environmental NGOs slammed the door, believing that the conditions were not present to initiate dialogue. Among the hot topics that the associations wanted to address, however, was the main indicator for measuring the use of pesticides in France, Nodu, which the authorities say they are ready to get rid of.

“It’s a red line,” eight NGOs had warned in a press release a few hours earlier. The government had expressed its desire to replace this reference tool of the Ecophyto plan, intended to reduce the use of phytosanitary products by 2030 and paused by Gabriel Attal, “time to put in place a new indicator”. A choice supposed to appease the anger of the FNSEA, the main agricultural union, which is up in arms against this uniquely French thermometer.

What is his role ?

This indicator, created specifically as part of the Ecophyto plan, makes it possible to assess “the pressure linked to biocidal products on terrestrial, aquatic or marine species and spaces”, underlines the government website. Calculated from plant protection product sales data and expressed in hectares, it corresponds to the number of treatments applied on average each year to all French crops, on a national scale.

The specificity of Nodu, “for Number of unit doses”, is to evaluate “the intensity of use of phytopharmaceutical products”, whatever the type of culture, specifies the website of the Ministry of Agriculture. It is obtained by dividing the quantity sold of each active substance of pesticides, the molecules responsible for the desired effect, by the “unit doses”, in other words “the maximum dose” specific to each active substance that can be applied. during an “average” treatment on a crop, in a given year.

This tool thus makes it possible “to take into account both the quantity of active substances and the dose at which they are effective, which amounts to defining their degree of toxicity », Supports researcher Corentin Barbu to AFP, according to whom this tool is “the most relevant”. In recent years, Nodu has made it possible to assess the progress recorded in the use of pesticides: France went from 82 million hectares in 2009 to 120.3 in 2018 before returning to 85.7 in 2021. The Ecophyto plan previously stated the ambitious objective of reducing this figure to around 50 million in 2030.

Why is it criticized by farmers?

For the FNSEA, just as for the chemical industry, Nodu does not do justice to the efforts of farmers, who claim to have already reduced their use of pesticides by 46% in 20 years. The measurement tool “only takes into account the volumes used, without distinction between the most risky products which are used in small quantities and the lower impact alternative solutions which are used in larger volumes”, pointed out Sunday Arnaud Rousseau, the president of the FNSEA, in the columns of West France. “Farmers and their unions are accused today of being resistant to change, while it is the thermometer of their commitment that is failing,” he lamented, castigating “an indicator that only reflects the increase in doses and not risk reduction.”

A line what is the government joining?, also believing that Nodu does not reflect the decline “of 96% in ten years” of the most dangerous pesticides, CMR-1. He prefers to this “little French indicator” a European index with which he would like to replace it, the HRI1. This “harmonized risk indicator”, proposed by the European Commission, makes it possible to multiply the active substances sold by “coefficients”, which should “reflect the dangerousness of the various pesticides”. A tool praised by the pesticide lobby, which believes that it “takes into account the dangerousness rather than the volume”.

Why do NGOs defend it at all costs?

Environmental NGOs judge, on the contrary, that Nodu remains the most accurate for assessing the reduction in pesticide use. “To call into question the Nodu indicator is to call into question the very objective of reducing the use of pesticides,” argue eight associations in the press release published this Monday, including Générations Futures, WWF France, the LPO and even the Foundation for Nature and Man (FNH).

On his website, the latter affirms for example that the measurement tool, unlike other indicators, is capable of “freeing itself from possible substitutions” that the phytopharmaceutical industry could propose, according to its research. “It makes it possible to get as close as possible to the realities of the dangers of pesticides, particularly when certain active substances are replaced by new substances that are effective at lower doses and therefore require a smaller volume of product,” explains the FNH.

Beyond this argument, the associations also believe that a sudden change of direction on the indicator would distort future evaluations. “How can we decide on a reduction in this or that pesticide if the calculation method for monitoring the use of chemicals used for 15 years is suddenly no longer the same? It’s incomprehensible ! “, criticized at the beginning of February with Le Parisien Thomas Uthayakumar, FNH program director.

As for the alternative considered by the government, HRI1, it does not measure up, according to her. The indicator is even “totally misleading” in the eyes of Générations Futures: according to the association, “the danger coefficients are too low” with this tool, accused of “penalizing organic agriculture” by its choice of classification.

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