As the golf industry awaits the announcement of the European Parliament’s voting on the first reading of the Pesticides Directive, the text of Golf Environment Europe’s submission has been released.
The Parliament’s decision is just the start of a detailed process. If approved by the Parliament it is expected that the legislation will be on the agenda for the meeting of the Council of Ministers on 26th November. Even if agreement is reached at that stage, the new legislation would not take effect until late 2009 or early 2010.
Golf Environment Europe (GEE) draws the Parliament’s attention to the importance of the golf industry which is estimated to employ over 190,000 people.
GEE submission on the Use of Pesticides in Amenity and Public Areas
Golf Environment Europe is a non profit 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.
The submission is made in partnership with members of European golf’s Innovation and Technology Network, namely, the University of Pisa, the Scandinavian Turfgrass and Environmental Research Foundation, Cranfield University, and the Sports Turf Research Institute. All are specialists in golf, turfgrass and environmental management issues, with many years experience in research and development, and information extension related to application of plant protection products on golf courses.
The I&T Network is a pan European collaboration aiming to improve the collation and dissemination of environmental information to practitioners in golf course management and development across Europe. It is resourced by a number of golf’s manufacturing and supply companies, but functions with complete objectivity and transparency.
We are writing with specific reference to the use of plant protection products in the amenity sector and in pubic 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 provides a useful overview of the issues relating to the regulation of pesticides in European golf.
INFORMATION RELEVANT TO THE REGULATION OF PLANT PROTECTION PRODUCTS (PPP’S) 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 6,000 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 cooperate 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 Environmental Resource 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.
On a wider note, GEE 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:
• 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;
• 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.
Golf Environment Europe www.golfenvironmenteurope.org