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