Cereals 2013: Neonicotinoids ban could be just the start - NFU

THE suspension of neonicotinoid seed treatments could be just the start of a wave of EU restrictions on crop protection products, the NFU warned at the Cereals Event.

NFU chief combinable crops Guy Gagen said the situation was ‘seriously worrying’ for UK arable farmers.

“The neonicotiniod suspension was bad enough but we know the European Commission are now looking at endocrine disruptor cut-off criteria,” he said.

The Commission is set to consult later this year on its definition of endocrine disruptors because of concerns these chemicals pose a risk to human and animal health. This dates back to a piece of legislation introduced in 2008.

Mr Gagen said there was a ‘real threat’ this could result in a ban on triazoles, a group of chemicals widely used as fungicides in the UK to address problems like mycotoxins. Triazoles underpin much of the UK crop protection programme.

The European Commission imposed a two-year suspension on the use of neonicotinoids in crops like oilseed rape because of fears over bee health after member states failed to reach a qualified majority in a vote. Mr Gagen said he feared this approach could set a precedent for the process with endocrine disruptors.

“They have taken those products off the market without much of an evidence base. It is using one half of the precautionary principle without thinking about the economic consequences,” he said.

“That’s our worry because we have moved away from the European Union relying on good straightforward science to allowing politics to interfere in the regulatory process. Pesticides have been absolutely targeted by NGOs and now the Commission and this poses a real risk to the UK where we are more reliant on crop protection products,” he said.

NFU combinable crops chairman Andrew Watts said crop protection had been the ‘saving grace’ in recent years as the weather has wreaked havoc with the growing and harvest seasons. He said the technology had ‘helped maintain yield potential and all important grain quality by guarding against pests and ensure crops are more drought and flood resistant’.

“However, with the march by lobbying organisations to force restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids and potential restrictions on triazoles, it is hardly surprising to see that short-term confidence is so low.

“Crop protection technology must be embraced to help safeguard our harvests in years to come.”

Mr Watts said he would be use pyrethroid pesticides on his oilseed rape crops when the suspension comes in after the next growing season.

Questioned on why the Government had not done more to avert the ban, Farming Minister David Heath said the UK had opposed all along and made robust arguments that there was insufficient evidence to justify a ban. But he said the UK could do nothihng about the stance taken by other member states and was simply outvoted.

What are endocrine disruptors?

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals which, at certain doses, can interfere with the human hormone system

Readers' comments (5)

  • The EU ban was based on a review of science ... not a review of politics. The EFSA scientific reviews make disturbing reading, particularly some of the field trials.

    Farming has lost touch with it roots if it thinks that the chemical cocktails listed above are the way to produce food.

    The evidence that the ban was correct stacks up daily, but the same old lines that its without scientific evidence or field trials are never updated.

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  • In fact, the EU ban was based on FLAWED science.
    More exactly, EFSA, under political pressure, has considered that some labs conditions are comparable to field conditions.
    Which is absolutely not the case !

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  • Even if lab conditions are somewhat different then field conditions the difference would be so small that the risk to bees would still be unacceptable. If people were given 4 or 5 aspirins in the lab and dropping dead but 2 are considered safe aspirin would be too dangerous and banned. Furthermore Bayer and Syngenta should be demanding for field trials to be conducted immediately which they are not.

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  • BP- I think a more apt comparison would be that if 4 or 5 aspirins were deadly, then a bee landing on the cap, of a bottle of aspirins would be considered safe.
    Neonics are used as seed treatments and are derived from nicotine.
    Still, let's all return to insecticides derived from nerve gases, then.

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  • More than 30 separate scientific studies have found a link between the neonicotinoids, which attack insects' nerve systems, and falling bee numbers . The proposal by European Commission - the EU's legislative body - to ban the insecticides was based on a solid study by the European Food Safety Authority , which found in January that the pesticides did pose a risk to bees' health . In June 2012 the Pesticides Unit delivered a statement on two articles published in the journal Science which suggested links between neonicotinoids and bee colony survival. The first article highlighted research showing that honey bees exposed to sub-lethal doses of thiamethoxam suffer from impaired orientation skills, and concluded that commonly encountered concentrations of thiamethoxam can contribute to the collapse of colonies. The second article concluded that imidacloprid, another neonicotinoid, can inhibit the reproductive health of bumble bees. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJhTpcpjZww

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