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Dutch garden centers can exclude growers that use illegal pesticides

Dutch garden centers have agreed to combat the use of illegal pesticides. They want to contribute to the sector's sustainability and keep growers from using substances that are harmful to people, animals, and the environment. If, after an initial warning, plant growers continue to use illegal pesticides, they will be excluded from supplying all affiliated garden centers.

The industry association, Tuinbranche Nederland, submitted these agreements, supported by hundreds of garden centers, to the Consumer & Market Authority (ACM). The ACM tested the agreements against competition rules and the Sustainability Agreements Guidelines draft and made no objections.

Growers using banned substances could have a competitive edge because, for instance, their plants grow better or they have fewer losses. As mentioned, the ACM has ruled that the garden centers' agreements to combat the use of illegal pesticides by growers do not go against competition rules. Those rules are not intended to protect against unfair competition, such as an advantage based on using prohibited pesticides.

Martijn Snoep, ACM chairman, says, "Agreements between competitors to exclude certain suppliers usually contradict the competition rules. But some may be permitted to prevent dishonest competition. That's, say, having products that have been produced illegally. Of course, there must always be a mindful procedure before a supplier can be excluded. That's the case here."

What will happen?
Some ornamental plant growers still use banned pesticides. The parties selling those plants have, thus, taken the initiative to take measures against this. Garden centers all over the Netherlands will have a recognized laboratory to test random plants. Those showing traces of illegal pesticides will be rejected. The other garden centers will then be informed to prevent the plants from being sold elsewhere.

At their next delivery, these plant growers must declare that they have not used illegal substances and show what action they have taken to prevent a recurrence. The garden centers will do a second test to verify that no prohibited substances have been used. If not, the grower will get the go-ahead to deliver to the affiliated garden centers again. The garden centers are, thus, trying to make the ornamentals sector more sustainable.

What is the ACM finding?
The ACM tested the agreements against the competition rules and the draft Sustainability Agreements Guidelines. These are, after all, agreements between competing companies about (temporarily) excluding growers of certain products. Illegal pesticides are still used, despite public oversight.

So the gardening industry took it upon itself to agree to stop this. Such agreements must be open and transparent, and there must be a careful procedure before suppliers are excluded. On this basis, the ACM sees no objection to the agreements.

Source: Autoriteit Consument & Markt 

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