NFU welcomes latest neonicotinoid report

A study which concludes that neonicotinoid insecticides make a significant contribution to crop production in the UK should be welcomed as another piece of the debate on bee and pollinator health, says the NFU.

The Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture report says that if UK farmers no longer had access to neonicotinoid seed treatment technology then it would result in a loss of approximately £630million to the economy each year.

The report also shows that in unfavourable years, such as 2012, the loss of neonicotinoids could result in declines in winter wheat yield of up to 20 per cent, which would make this crop uneconomic for UK farmers to grow.

NFU lead on bee health Dr Chris Hartfield said: "The results of this work are important, particularly in light of work being done currently by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reviewing neonicotinoid seed treatments.

"While EFSA’s work has identified gaps in the current regulatory process assessing how pesticides affect bees, we still do not know how relevant these gaps are and whether plugging them would actually improve the health of bees or other pollinators.

"Any decision to change the woay pesticides are used to control crop pests will have an impact on both the protection of insect pollinators and the protection of crops.

"It is essential that we fully understand all these impacts before taking any action. Otherwise there is a significant risk we could make changes that do nothing to improve bee health, or even worsen the bee health situation, while also compromising the effectiveness of what this socio-economic report clearly shows is very important way of protecting our crops from pests."

Commenting on the report, Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett said it clarifies, "the choices we need to make over the use of neonicotinoids in the UK".

He said: "On the one hand the chemical companies and the NFU say we risk the additional costs to farmers amounting to £630m. On the other, the possible cost of losing pollinating insects is thought to be worth three times as much to UK farmers.

He added: "As this report was funded by Bayer Crop Sciences and Syngenta is was probably unlikely to conclude that neonicotinoids should be banned. The Soil Association's Keep Britain Buzzing campaign is calling for neonicotinoids to be banned in the UK and has been campaigning along with Friends of the Earth, BugLife and other NGOs to highlight this issue."



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