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Safeguarding Europe’s biodiversity: CBE JU-funded projects support EU’s sustainability targets

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The European Commission has published today new rules to reduce the use of chemical pesticides and a legally binding nature restoration law with the aim of restoring damaged ecosystems and bringing back nature across Europe. Since 2014, CBE JU has been supporting projects working on bio-based solutions for sustainable farming that contribute to the goals of these legislative documents.

Healthy ecosystems clean our water, purify our air, maintain our soil, regulate the climate, recycle nutrients and provide us with food. Biodiversity is the key indicator of the health of an ecosystem, and protecting it from the impact of human activities is a priority for the EU.

This is why the European Commission published yesterday its nature restoration package, a core part of the European Green Deal, which includes a revision of the existing Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive and a nature restoration law to repair the damage done to Europe’s nature by 2050 with explicit targets applicable to all Member States.  

Reducing the use and risk of chemical pesticides by half is one of the primary objectives of the Commission’s new proposal, which transforms the existing Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive into a Regulation in line with the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy. The proposed Regulation aims to enhance the implementation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), one of the tools that minimise the use of chemical plant protection products to the greatest extent possible.

Legally binding nature restoration targets aim to restore the EU’s ecosystems by helping to increase biodiversity, mitigate and adapt to climate change, and prevent and reduce the impacts of natural disasters. The proposal of the European Commission will set restoration targets and obligations to increase the biodiversity of forest and agriculture ecosystems and reverse the decline of pollinator populations.

CBE JU supports the goals of the nature restoration package by building on the achievements of its predecessor, Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking, which invested €3.7 billion in over 140 circular bio-based industries projects. These projects help preserve biodiversity and replace toxic chemicals with bio-based products with a lower environmental footprint.

Protecting biodiversity by providing farmers with sustainable alternatives

A number of CBE JU-funded projects are contributing to the EU’s biodiversity goals by providing innovative bio-based alternatives to more traditional pesticides and fertilisers.

The PHERA project, for example, is working on bio-based pesticides derived from insect pheromones that will help prevent environmental damage and preserve large-scale crops from pests. Moreover, PHERA will make pheromones-based products much more affordable for farmers, thus helping to switch to greener farming.

The B-FERST project is minimising the environmental impact of the fertilisers’ value chain by acting directly at the stage of nutrients extraction. The project is working on tailored solutions to improve soil nutrients. It is also developing new bio-based fertilisers and biodegradable coatings that will not produce impurities in soil and avoid water pollution. B-FERST is also working to improve the whole value chain, in particular by reducing the carbon footprint of the proposed fertilisers by 10 per cent and developing a market for secondary nutrients.

The BIOVEXO project is developing a biopesticide to address bacterial pathogens affecting olive and almond orchards in Southern Europe.

Enriching the soil and fighting desertification

Soil is the very basis for the food we grow as well as for the production of feed, textiles, wood and other materials. It provides us with clean water, hosts biodiversity, recycles nutrients, regulates climate and is part of our landscapes and cultural heritage.

The LIBBIO project has been growing Andean Lupin, a legume plant, on marginal lands across Europe to produce bio-based cosmetics and food ingredients. At the same time, the project has been supporting sustainable farming by increasing the quality of marginal lands and preparing the previously poor soil for other agricultural purposes. Indeed, using little water and fertiliser, Andean Lupin has the ability to fix nitrogen and mobilise soil phosphate, thus increasing the organic matter of the soil.

Some projects are also trying to find ways to use already degraded soils and give them back their original health by growing crops in areas polluted by heavy metals or because they are unattractive for food production due to lower yields. This is the case of the GRACE project, which is cultivating hemp and miscanthus to produce high-quantity and quality biomass. Miscanthus, in particular, contributes to enriching the soil with valuable nutrients.