EU's neonicotinoid report triggers further controversy

A recent report published by the EU arguing that the widespread use of neonicotinoids has a severe negative impact on pollinators and birds has sparked further controversy and angered some farming organisations.

The European Academies Science Advisory Council, which was set up to help European policy-makers better deal with and understand scientific and technological issues, published its report Ecosystem Services, Agriculture & Neonicotinoids on 8 April. It was due to discuss its findings in Brussels earlier this week.

The report confirms that there is an increasing body of evidence showing how the widespread use of neonicotinoids has a severe negative impact on pollinator species and birds.

But Crop Protection Association chief executive officer Nick von Westenholz and NFU vice-president Guy Smith have both slammed the report for its reliance on old research.

Westenholz said: "The report reflects a bias of the anti-neonicotinoid campaign toward highly theoretical laboratory tests rather than fully considering published field studies and other independent research that proves the safety of these pesticides."

He added: "The only effect of the restriction on neonicotinoids in Europe so far has been a steady stream of reports from farmers that their crops are suffering serious losses."

Smith confirmed the crop losses. "The neonicotinoids restrictions have taken away a vital tool from the toolbox of UK farmers," he said.

"Many farmers across the nation have seen their crops compromised by cabbage stem flea beetle - a pest that was eating away at our plants before they even surfaced due to the absence of the neonicotinoid seed coating protecting the plant in its first growth stages.

"Its larvae are now inside many plants, causing damage from the inside out. We are yet to see the potentially destructive impacts of turnip yellow virus infections."

However, Soil Association director Peter Melchett praised the report. "The Soil Association will call on the next Government to welcome the ban on three neonicotinoids and call for it to be made permanent."

He added: "More importantly, the next Government also needs to ensure that these dangerous chemicals are banned completely."

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