Over the past few months, EBIC has had frequent exchanges with DEFRA regarding the future for plant biostimulants in the UK. DEFRA is keen to create an enabling framework for plant biostimulants in the UK and to ensure that its producers can export to the EU market. The UK government is also mindful that their farmers depend on products from the rest of Europe for their plant nutrition and soil fertility needs (e.g. up to 60% of mineral fertilizers used in the UK come from the EU), so they don't want to create non-tariff barriers to trade. EBIC welcomes the opportunity to support DEFRA in this initiative.
On 13 May, EBIC board member Martin Brown (Verdesian) and Kristen Sukalac (Prospero/EBIC secretariat) attended an invitation-only roundtable hosted by DEFRA with representatives from a wide range of plant nutrition and soil fertility sectors, farmers, and government representatives from DEFRA, the Welsh and Scottish governments. Discussions were held by web conference, complemented by an online "Retro board", which allowed participants to respond to 7 questions asked by DEFRA and to "like/upvote" each other's comments (see picture). The most relevant questions for EBIC relate to fostering innovating, labelling, and how much information farmers need to make decisions about biostimulants safety and effectiveness.
The web conference focused on the following topics:
Overview of the "direction of travel" for the UK framework for fertilising products (which is considered by DEFRA to be outdated and fragmented). The consultation period will continue through October, with a legislative proposal expected in early 2022.
Waste – widening the scope for use as fertiliser. DEFRA focused on compost and digestates, but we also mentioned the need to consider all animal by-products, especially protein hydrolysates and to negotiate mutual recognition of the UK's End-of-Waste status so that Fertilising Products from the UK can still be eligible for CE-marking under the FPR.
Labelling – adopting proposed FPR proposal for the UK. Participants argued for a simplification of the EU approach, noting that for professional users, purchasing decisions are made well before the products are delivered and end users even see the label.
Biostimulants – inclusion into regulation. The UK is keen to see the biostimulants industry grow because they see the products as innovative and aligned with their environmental goals. Among the issues for them to consider simplifying, we highlighted the FPR's REACH+ requirements and the importance of leaving farmers to make decisions about product effectiveness.
In order to ensure smooth trade from the EU into the UK, participants stressed that the UK system should be simpler than the EU system and not add any requirements that EU-manufactured products might not meet.
For more information or materials from the event, contact the EBIC secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org.