Ministry: Dutch tulips not in danger
Dutch Agriculture Ministry says newly proposed Europe-wide restrictions on pesticides will not endanger the tulip industry in the Netherlands.17 October 2008
THE NETHERLANDS -- Dutch Agriculture Ministry says the EU restrictions on pesticides will not spell the doom of the tulip industry in the Netherlands.
The ministry is responding to a Dutch farmers' organisation claims on Thursday that newly proposed Europe-wide restrictions on pesticides could lead to the demise of the country's iconic tulip industry, among other crops.
Dutch Agriculture Ministry spokesman Murco Mijnlieff said the Dutch government supports the draft proposals agreed by governments in June because it gives farmers time to find alternatives.
"If the European Parliament proposals become law, it's a problem ... but I don't expect that," he said.
"The Dutch bulb industry is not in danger," he added. "This is a cry for help."
In June, EU agriculture ministers agreed on draft proposals to tighten the use of pesticides across Europe, banning those that cause cancer or pose unnecessary health risks to humans. The European Parliament has proposed an even wider ban.
The new regulations would affect most crops, but tulip farmers said tulips and other bulbs would be particularly hard-hit because pesticides are used to prevent diseases that can prevent bulbs from flowering.
"If a sugar beet is small, it can still be sold, if a tulip bulb is too small it cannot produce a flower" and is worthless, said Jaap van Wenum, a spokesman for the Dutch Agriculture and Horticulture Organisation.
Spring fields of blooming tulips and other flowers are a major tourist draw in the Netherlands and sale of the flowers and bulbs is worth hundreds of millions of euros each year.
The European Commission, the EU's executive body, must ultimately implement such regulations and no decision has been made on which proposal to adopt. A vote in the European Parliament is expected in January.
The farmer's lobby group says that if the new restrictions proposed by the European Parliament come into force, growing tulips and some other crops will no longer be viable.
Van Wenum said the farmers' message to European lawmakers is: "Let us keep using those pesticides we can't do without until we can find alternatives. If we're given time ... we can keep this industry in the Netherlands."
Kathalijne Buitenweg, a European lawmaker with the Dutch GreenLeft party welcomes the pesticide ban, saying it will help prevent chemicals that can cause cancer, affect DNA and cause infertility from ending up in drinking water.
"On this point, we have to choose for our health," she said. "As far as I am concerned, protecting people and the environment outweighs short-term economic interests."
[AP / Expatica]