Friday, December 15, 2017

Defra under fire for supporting wider ban on neonicotinoids

December 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Crops

Industry leaders have criticised Defra secretary Michael Gove after he said tougher restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides were justified by a growing weight of scientific evidence.

Speaking last month, Mr Gove said the UK supported further restrictions on neonicotinoids due to their effects on bees and other pollinators. Unless the scientific evidence changes, the government would maintain any increased restrictions post-Brexit, he said.

Risk factors

It comes after the UK government’s advisory body on pesticides said scientific evidence suggested the environmental risks posed by neonicotinoids – particularly to bees and pollinators – were greater than previously understood, supporting the case for further restrictions.

Research estimates the annual value of the UK’s 1,500 species of pollinators to crops at £400-£680m due to improved productivity. Mr Gove said his vision was not only to maintain environmental standards but to enhance them too.

“The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood. I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use.

“We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk. I recognise the impact further restrictions will have on farmers and I am keen to work with them to explore alternative approaches both now and as we design a new agricultural policy outside the European Union.

Extended ban

The EU has banned the use of three neonicotinoids – Clothianidin, Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam – on a number of crops, including oilseed rape, since 2013. Brussels has now proposed extending the ban to all field crops, including oilseed rape.

Should this proposal be adopted, the UK would have the right to consider emergency authorisations. But Mr Gove said the government would only do so in exceptional circumstances where there was a real need and the risk to bees and other pollinators was sufficiently low.

NFU acting chief science adviser Chris Hartfield said the union deeply regretted the decision taken by the government. Farmers were well aware that pollinators played a crucial role in food production. They had planted 10,000 football pitches of flower habitat to support a healthy bee population.

“We don’t believe the evidence justifies this abrupt change in policy. We will continue to speak to the government about how the impact of the decision can best be mitigated so that farmers can maintain sustainable and productive cropping systems.”

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