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Syngenta withdraws neonicotinoid emergency use application

SYNGENTA has withdrawn an application for the emergency use of its neonicotinoid seed treatment on winter oilseed rape in the UK, after failing to gain Government approval in time to put the derogation in place.

The company applied for what would effectively have been a derogation from the EU ban on neonicotinoids earlier this year. It would have allowed UK farmers to plant 180,600 hectares of its Cruiser OSR this autumn, under strict conditions.

Oilseed rape

Farmers will not be aable to use Cruiser OSR this autumn

Defra’s Advisory Committee on Pesticides confirmed back in May the criteria for an emergency authorisation had been met. But by the middle of this week the Government, despite Defra Secretary Owen Paterson seemingly being in favour of the derogation, had still not made a decision.

Syngenta had been warning over the past week or so, that with an early planting season expected, it needed a decision by the end of June to put the emergency use option in place, given the various conditions surrounding it.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon the company said, following an assessment of the current planting schedule for growers, it has decided to withdraw its application.

However, the company has signalled to try again next year.

“Whilst the Advisory Committee on Pesticides has indicated that the criteria for emergency use has been met, there has been insufficient time to concludeon the conditions for verifying and auditing planting locations which were specific to this limited use application,” the statement said.

Effective stewardship

“In making the application, Syngenta was clear that in order to supply the product to British farmers and, importantly, to ensure its effective stewardship, an approval from government was required by the end of June.

“As the first year in which farmers will be unable to use neonicotinoid treated seed for winter oil seed rape, we welcome the fact that the government will be assessing the establishment of the crop in the UK this season.

“Based on this assessment, Syngenta will consider making a new application for the 2015/16 season to ensure British farmers have access to a technology which helps them to grow crops sustainably and which is safe for bees.

“We also welcome the fact that the government’s opposition to the EU-wide restriction of neonicotinoid pesticides remains unchanged.

“More broadly, Syngenta remains supportive of the government’s National Pollinator Strategy and fully intends to continue our work with farmers to provide food and habitat for bees, which is the key driver for their long term health, through Operation Pollinator.”

It is understood the decision on whether to grant the application had been on the agenda for discussion at Cabinet level.


Guy Smith, NFU vice president, said the NFU was ‘disappointed’ Syngenta has withdrawn applicationn and expressed frustration that the Government had been unable to make a decision in the timeframe required.

“It is very frustrating that, after the Advisory Committee on Pesticides had indicated that the conditions for approval had been met, it was not possible for a decision to be made in time for Syngenta to prepare seeds for this year’s planting,” he said.

“It is also of concern that the whole issue has been heavily politicised and manipulated with misinformation by campaign groups with their own agenda against pesticide use, without concern for the consequences for this country’s productive capacity or indeed for the potential unintended consequences for bee populations.

“This loss of this treatment will make it more complicated to grow oilseed rape this season. The NFU will closely monitor the effects with a view to supporting a further application next year.”

The Agricultural Industries Confederation also expressed its disappointment but said it recognised the ‘finite timeline in which to gain the approval and implement effective stewardship safeguards’ the supply companies would been required to do.

Paul Rooke, head of AIC’s seed sector, said: “The result is that planting this autumn will see oilseed rape seed being drilled without the proven protection against pests that neonicotinoid products have offered in recent years.

“We hope that the Government will monitor crops during the coming season to evaluate  the impact on crop growth and ultimately yield of one of the UK’s major crops.

“As ever, AIC is committed to decisions based on sound science  rather than political idealogy or public scaremongering.”

But Emma Hockridge, Soil Association head of policy welcomed the move, describing it as a ‘victory for pollinators and for science’

“There was no good reason for allowing this derogation and the impact could have been catastrophic. A global assessment on systemic pesticides recently highlighted 800 peer reviewed studies which highlights the risks to birds, earthworms and other pollinators as well as bees,” she said.

Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: “Our under-threat bees can breathe a bit easier this evening.

“We’re delighted Syngenta has withdrawn this application – the scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid pesticides to bee decline is stacking up.”

Readers' comments (14)

  • Both the NFU and those who oppose the use of neonics blame the Governments stance for being politically motivated, over-riding the science. It all depends on which science: that about the brilliant invention of new stable systemic insecticides that do the job successfully so that farmers have come to depend on them, and the science of the impacts on the wider environment. The former science says use them and the latter say don't.
    What if the inventiona had never been achieved? Oil seed rape has been grown for decades successfully without neonics. It's time for more other methods to be developed. One could even use nicotine, on which the neonics are based, by putting some waste tobacco leaves in the spray container, fill up with slightly soapy water, and spray before and after flowering; but this simple effective and safe method is illegal, because nicotine is poisonous!
    There are lots of cultivation approaches that minimise pest infestations.
    The most comprehensive common-sense science says that one cannot expect neonics to be safe, because they are stable, work at extremely low concentrations, and are systemic and cumulative through both plant and environment. How could they possibly not be harmful?

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  • Owen Paterson is a corporate shill and a traitor. Selling out the nation for your 50 pieces of silver you scumbag.

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  • A great victory for people power from 38 Degrees and others.

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  • Thank goodness for this decision. It stops one, but salky only one neonicotinoid. When the bees die, we all die. The NFU needs to get its beehouses in order.

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  • This is a great result for insects. You know? Those creatures without which our ecology would collapse? It is madness to keep piling cumulative, bio stable, systemic poisons into our environment to achieve short term results. Anyone with access to Google and an open mind kind find out about the environmental record of Syngenta and many other chemical peddlers. Don't trust them and keep piling on the pressure to prevent them getting their own way.

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  • We can save our bees and manage UK farms without neonicitinoids

    Recent findings that the current system for approving pesticides is opaque comes directly from the Summary of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, Pollinators and Pesticides, Seventh Report of Session 2012–13, Volume I.

    The same Committee also recommends that Defra take steps to immediately withdraw the approvals for use in the UK of neonicotinoid pesticides marketed for amateur application in private gardens and on amenities in order to create neonicotinoid-free zones for pollinators in non-agricultural areas. That although there may be specific issues in relation to oilseed rape requiring careful management without neonicotinoids, these pesticides are not fundamental to the general economic or agricultural viability of UK farming.

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  • I do not understand how the withdrawal of neonics could have bad consequences for bee populations. As for 'disinformation,' I belong to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and they looked carefully at all the evidence before they came down against these pesticides. I have every sympathy with farmers - but if we have no bees, their lives will be far more difficult in the long run.

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  • Every 'scientific' move away from Nature is risky. A change of attitude is needed from Science. Nature provides many checks & balances so adopt rigorously, studies that seek natural solutions & be reluctant to use artificial methods. As it is, only when faced with irrefutable evidence that cures from the laboratory are harmful, do they turn to more nature friendly means for patching up their damage.

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  • To Alistair Driver (the author of the article)
    Could I ask you a question about something that is contained in one of your articles.


    You mentioned that Mike Hambly "cited the experience of Sweden, which he said had suffered a 70 per cent drop in OSR yields after withdrawing neonicotinoid products.”

    There is no reference link in the article to the Swedish study, and I can’t find any source for it during a web search.
    So I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction, or if you have a copy of the study it would be
    very useful to take a look.

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  • I can't find the Sweden information either, but have found a slightly different point fo view on it: http://www.buglife.org.uk/news-%26-events/news/buglife-exposes-misleading-claims-swedish-oil-seed-rape-yield-loss

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