Pesticides use “has become a symbol of polarisation”, as the EU shelves an anti-pesticides proposal in Strasbourg, against a backdrop of protests by farmers.

Farmers have insisted that measures such as the one on pesticides would only increase bureaucratic burdens and keep them behind laptops instead of farming, adding to the price gap between their products and cheap imports produced by foreign farmers without similar burdens.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that the pesticides proposal, “has become a symbol of polarisation,” adding, “to move forward, more dialogue and a different approach is needed.”

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Ms von der Leyen acknowledged that the proposals had been made over the heads of farmers.

“Farmers need a worthwhile business case for nature-enhancing measures. Perhaps we have not made that case convincingly,” she added.

It is unclear when new proposals will be drafted. EU parliamentary elections are set for June, and the plight of farmers has become a focal point of campaigning, even pushing climate issues aside over the past few weeks.

Under its much-hyped European Green Deal, the EU has targeted a 50% cut in the overall use of pesticides and other hazardous substances by 2030.

The proposal was criticised both by environmentalists who claimed it would be insufficient to reach sustainability targets and by agriculture groups who insisted it would be unworkable and drive farmers out of business.

READ MORE | Tractors converge on Rome as farmers protest across Europe

Last week, Ms von der Leyen announced plans to shield farmers from cheaper products exported from wartime Ukraine and to allow farmers to use some land they had been required to keep fallow for environmental reasons.

The climbdown by the EU is being linked to widespread protests by farmers across Europe.

In Germany, farmers brought the capital to a standstill by gridlocking streets with vehicles, and farmers across Spain have staged tractor protests, blocking roads and causing traffic jams to demand changes in EU policies funds, and measures to combat production cost increases.

Farmers in the Netherlands blocked several roads and motorways with their tractors and set fire to hay bales and tyres.

Farmers in Greece have dumped chestnuts and apples on the pavement outside an agricultural fair and promised to escalate protests.

In Ballater, a proposed visit by the First Minister and Green Minister Lorna Slater saw up to 70 people rally in the town against green policies from the Scottish Government.

The use of chemicals in agriculture in Scotland has also been contentious. In 2023 the Scottish Government stated that the use of the herbicide asulox to control bracken growth does not meet the legislative requirements for emergency authorisation.

At the time, the chair of NFU Scotland’s environment and land use committee, Peter Douglas said: “Scotland’s farmers and crofters are facing an uphill battle to control existing stands of bracken and prevent further rapid spread from robbing Scottish hillsides of quality grazing for animals and vital habitats for wildlife.”