Lodewijk Klootwijk, director of the European Golf Course Owners Association (EGCOA), has revealed the text of the Association’s submission to Members of the European Parliament in Brussels in advance of the second reading of the Pesticides Directive which will control the use of pesticides in amenity and public areas
EGCOA’s case is supported by the Golf Environment Organisation (GEO), a nonprofit organisation set up over ten years ago with the assistance and encouragement of the European Commission to support, and report on, environmental sustainability in European golf.
It is made in partnership with members of GEO’s Scientific Network, namely, the University of Pisa, the Scandinavian Turf grass and Environmental Research Foundation, Cranfield University, and the Sports Turf Research Institute.
“All are specialists in golf, turf grass and environmental management issues, with many years experience in research and development, and knowledge transfer related to application of plant protection products on golf courses,” says Lodewijk Klootwijk. “We are writing in advance of the second reading of the proposed Pesticides Directive, with specific reference to the use of plant protection products in the amenity sector and in public areas.
“This submission aims to provide a balanced assessment of the role of plant protection products in sustainable golf course maintenance. We hope the attached document (which is reproduced below for readers of GBN) provides a useful overview of the issues relating to the regulation of pesticides in European golf.”
European Golf Course Owners Association www.egcoa.eu
INFORMATION RELEVANT TO THE REGULATION OF PLANT PROTECTION PRODUCTS IN EUROPEAN GOLF
We advocate the Precautionary Principle, and recognise the risks and public concerns associated with pesticide use across society.
We support the need for reduced exposure to pesticides in all aspects of society and industry. The European golf sector should play its part by reducing the need and use of plant protection products, consistent with environmental and human health protection.
The promotion of an integrated approach to pest and disease management (IPM) is central to this – encouraging the use of all other cultural, mechanical and biological maintenance practices ahead of pesticide application. The emphasis in turf management should always be on the promotion of healthy, drought and disease tolerant turf plants.
The sector has more work to do in ensuring that IPM is properly understood and practiced across all 6000 European golf courses.
We support the need for improved education and environmental programme development, based on research and science, across the sector to ensure that non chemical alternatives are available and prioritised and pesticide use is minimised.
We support informed regulation which facilitates gradual and sustainable reductions in the use of plant protection products in golf course management.
In particular, we support the need for ongoing refinements in regulation which lead to improved and more consistent internationally applied standards in:
product handling, storage and application;
recording and transparent reporting;
environmental monitoring and compliance;
education and training.
We support other ongoing initiatives which aim to improve research and development into the formulation and registration of plant protection products, through other regulatory regimes such as REACH.
However, even with sophisticated application of IPM practices, many golf facilities across Europe today do require access to plant protection products to ensure turf quality which allows for the successful undertaking of the sport, and the long term financial sustainability of the business. Plant protection products are often an important tool in maintaining golf courses which are fit for purpose.
In the context of total pesticide manufacturing and consumption, use on golf courses is very small.
Anything which could lead to the sudden prohibition of plant protection products from golf courses in European member states would seriously affect the overall sustainability of the industry (see further context below).
We believe flexibility should be retained for member states to take action appropriate to their own circumstances and priority areas, and via their own National Action Plans. In many member states, income derived from golf and golf tourism is significant, and deterioration in playing quality could have significant social and economic impact.
We would be pleased to work with the EC in coordinating further research and development into the use of plant protection products in European golf, and in devising and promoting new technologies and approaches towards reducing consumption of pesticides, and their environmental risk. In addition we would wish to co-operate in communicating research results and new knowledge related to IPM and minimizing chemical pesticides.
In this regard, our organisations together with other industry initiatives, are currently developing an Knowledge Centre for golf, which will bring to golf course managers the most up to date advice and technical guidance on many environmental issues, including environmentally sound approaches to turfgrass management.
Representatives from the scientific network organisations are already working together with regional or national governmental bodies developing programmes for BMP on national level
On a wider note, GEO are currently working with the European Commission in developing an environmental management system for golf facilities, which will facilitate their credible participation in EMAS. This will require all participating facilities to be transparent on their pesticide use, and in monitoring environmental quality.
Europe’s 6,000 golf facilities constitute, in effect, small-to-medium businesses and contribute significantly to the European Union’s general economic and social wellbeing.
They are important to the economy:
53 billion revenue in industry as whole (Economic Impact Study KPMG and 9 golf bodies 2008);
on average a golf facility employs 15 to 20 full time employees;
over 190,000 people work in the European golf industry;
they bring particularly valuable investment into rural economies;
many regional economies of Europe are heavily dependent on golf facilities and golf tourism.
Golf facilities are often focal points of the community:
average number of members of a golf facility is 800 local people, with over 5 million registered European golfers, and 8 million golfers in total;
they are increasingly opening up to family recreation and leisure;
junior golf is now an international concept, promoted through golf facilities in conjunction with government programmes, local community and volunteer groups and schools.
Golf, health and well-being:
golf is a healthy pastime, played outdoors in natural and semi natural environs, which requires, on average, a walk of between 7 to 8 kilometres;
reduced mortality in Swedish golf players: golfers live 4 years longer than non-golfer (Golf: a game of life and death – reduced mortality in Swedish Golf players by B. Farahmand, G. Broman, U. De Faire, D. Vagero, A. Ahlbom;
golf can be played from a very young age through to a very old age;
the rules of golf are based on honesty, integrity and other values which are important across society as a whole. Young people who play golf are imbued with these values and other principles of sportsmanship. They can also quite easily be made aware of the special relationship between this sporting activity and environmental stewardship.
Vibrant golf facilities can also bring valued environmental benefits:
through their active management and stewardship of landscapes, species and habitats which are otherwise under agricultural or development pressure;
conserving over 300,000 ha of green-space;
through the protection they afford to urban fringe, coastal zone and urban areas;
through their ecosystems services in terms of improving air quality, water quality (sustainable drainage), carbon sequestration;
studies carried out in different European regions shows that pesticides are regularly applied to only 4% of the golf course estate, the average golf course is approximately 70 hectares. For each golf course, only 2.5 ha of land on average have pesticide applied regularly.