NFU and trade bodies lobby against Buglife report linking pesticides with neonicotinoids to bumble bee decline

Grower can reveal that six leading organisations in the food production industry, including the NFU and the Crop Protection Association (CPA), have put together a lobbying document for Government ministers in response to a controversial report published last September by Buglife.

Buglife, a trust dedicated to the conservation of invertebrates, claimed that pesticides containing neonicotinoids - used on a range of horticultural crops including top and soft fruit, Brassicas, peas and potatoes - are partially responsible for the decline in bumblebee populations.

It wants to see the use of all UK products containing neonicotinoids put on hold, pending a review of this group of insecticides, and it feels so strongly about the issue that it submitted its report to Number 10 Downing Street.

"The Soil Association, Pesticide Action Network and Bumblebee Conservation Trust backed the report, which at the time was criticised by the NFU for being based only on selective case studies that had not thoroughly assessed the impact of the chemicals."

The NFU, CPA, Fresh Produce Consortium, British Crop Production Council, Country Land and Business Association and Agricultural Industries Confederation have now formed a solid opposition against the claims.

They fear that, in the run up to the general election, ministers may be tempted to take neonicotinoids off the shelves in order to score some brownie points with voters.

As Grower went to press the groups were finalising the draft document they hope to send out to ministers this month.

CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer, speaking last Wednesday at a "food chain" meeting held in London, said: "We are concerned it (the Buglife report) is being left open to wide debate in the media.

"What we want to do as an industry is get something to senior-level ministers to say: 'These are the facts as we see them on the issue of pesticide use and bees.' That's what we are working on.'

"We need to ensure that we have firm views so that certain types of treatments are not removed from the market. If this happens it would have a detrimental impact to agriculture and horticulture. We want to make sure that government ministers remain firm on that issue."

He added: "We are not making a big deal out of it - although it is coming up to seed treatment time. It's a lobbying document that will allow a certain degree of confidence about what's going on."

Chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council Dr Julian Little added: "Politicians are still being heavily lobbied in this area and the last thing we want them to do is think 'oh I might just get a couple of votes out of this'."

Dyer has also revealed that a stewardship booklet is being produced by the CPA, the NFU and the Bee Keepers Association, to "get across some key elements" - such as how growers should not spray during flowering.

Dyer said: "Good stewardship is critical. We have been working with a number of retailers to ensure good stewardship, however, they are also getting lobbied by these environmental groups. It's a worry as their image is extremely important so they could be looking to see what products they can de-list or restrict their use of."

Little added: "We know that the vast majority of farmers and growers are entirely responsible. But this is about the industry being seen to be doing slightly more than everything else we do. It's not about what we are doing - it's about being seen to be doing it."

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