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Defra rejects NFU neonicotinoid emergency use application

The NFU’s application to all farmers to use seeds treated with restricted neonicotinoids has been rejected by Defra.
Neonicotinoids are banned at EU level because of concern over their impact on bee health
Neonicotinoids are banned at EU level because of concern over their impact on bee health

Farming Minister George Eustice has rejected applications by the NFU and AHDB seeking permission to allow farmers to use neonicotinoid seed treatments currently banned at EU level this autumn.

 

The NFU responded by pledging to persist in applying for the emergency use of neonicotinoid seed treatments on behalf of farmers facing pressure from Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle.

 

The NFU and AHDB submitted two applications on April 8 to the Health and Safety Executive for emergency authorisation to allow the use on oilseed rape of Syngenta’s Cruiser OSR and Bayer’s Modesto, both of which contain restricted neonicotinoids.

 

The applications sought use of the products to control CSFB.

 

The Government’s independent advisers, the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) found neither of the applications met the requirements for emergency authorisation. The full advice the ECP submitted to Ministers can be viewed here.

 

Mr Eustice therefore rejected both applications, Defra announced on Thursday.

 

Member States are permitted to issue emergency authorisations for a period of up to 120 days where necessary ‘because of a danger which cannot be contained by any other reasonable means’ and where the authorisation is for a ‘limited and controlled use’.

 

The applications sought authorisations sufficient to treat a sown area of 195,000ha in England, which represents about one-third of the average OSR cropped area in England in the last two years.

 

Insufficient information

 

The ECP recognised the potential for damage to crops by CSFB but concluded the applications do not meet the criteria for an emergency authorisation because:

 

  • There is insufficient information to ensure that use will be limited only to those areas where there is a danger or threat to plant protection; and
  • The stewardship arrangements proposed by the applicant do not offer adequate assurance that the use will be controlled in an appropriate fashion.

 

A Defra spokesperson said: "Today, based on the evidence and advice from the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides, Defra rejected two applications by the National Farmers Union to use neonicotinoids on oilseed rape crops.

 

"Applications are considered by the Health and Safety Executive and by the independent Expert Committee before a decision is taken by Ministers."

 

Three neonicotinoids were restricted across the EU from December, 2013, following concerns about their effects on bees.

 

Disappointed

 

The rejection will come as a blow to the NFU, which successfully secured an emergency use application across four counties in 2015.

 

NFU vice president Guy Smith said: “This is a blow for arable farmers across the country whose oilseed rape crops are under heavy threat from cabbage stem flea beetle. We are disappointed with the Minister’s decision; we strongly argued the case on behalf of our members.

 

“We remain committed to obtaining approval for the emergency use of neonicotinoid seed treatments for this planting season. These plant protection products are absolutely vital in protecting England’s oilseed rape crop from pests.

 

“We are currently looking into making further applications.”

 

Friends of the Earth bee campaigner Dave Timms said: “The Government’s decision to reject this application is great news for Britain’s bees.

“Allowing farmers to use banned bee-harming pesticides would have been a real threat to these crucial pollinators.

 

"The Expert Committee on Pesticides has given a damning verdict on the applications. We hope the NFU will get the message and give up trying to bring back these dangerous chemicals.

 

"This refusal is extremely welcome, but the applications and evidence submitted are all still secret. They must be released immediately.

 

“Ministers must now push for the ban on these chemicals to be made permanent.”


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Why the application was rejected

Why the application was rejected

The application

 

  • The application was based on AHDB data suggesting that over the last two years an average of 33 per cent of the OSR crop grown in England exceeded the guideline threshold level for CSFB control using post emergence insecticide sprays and suffered moderate to severe pest pressure.
  • The data also suggested that an average of 8.5 per cent of the OSR crop grown in England suffered ‘high to severe’ pest pressure, an average of 2 per cent was said to suffer ‘severe’ pest pressure.
  • The only chemical control alternatives are foliar sprays of pyrethroid containing products, and there are now instances of resistance in CSFB populations to this pesticide group.
  • The applicants proposed supply of seed to areas of greatest risk would be assured by only providing seed to growers who received a written recommendation from a BASIS qualified agronomist who has undertaken a short on-line training course specifically for this purpose.
  • All growers purchasing treated seed would need to agree to terms and conditions contained in a stewardship form provided by the companies.
  • The applicants provided details of initial findings of studies undertaken following the granting of the 2015 emergency authorisations on the impact on adult and larval numbers and crop establishment/damage.
  • They provided an update on the incidence of pyrethroid resistance in CSFB populations in 2016.

 

The committee's response

 

  • The committee acknowledged there is evidence to demonstrate the use of seed treated with these products provide moderate control of CSFB, a reduction in damage and can improve crop establishment in certain circumstances.
  • Factors such as weather, soil type and slug populations were also identified as key and could, depending on circumstances, be more important, factors in crop establishment.
  • While farmers took additional steps (such as preparing seedbeds) to help crop establishment in their absence, a lack of access to seed treated with these products may subject some farmers to significant economic pressures, the committee acknowledged.
  • For example, the products can, in extreme cases, prevent complete crop loss and the need to re-drill or having patchy establishment and poorly growing crops.
  • The committee concluded, however, the likely economic impact of preventable losses from CSFB was unclear from the evidence provided.
  • The committee also found the evidence submitted was not sufficient to determine the appropriate scale of use and where or how this should be targeted.
  • For example, there was only a weak relationship between regional crop infestation by CSFB and regional patterns of crop damage and loss.
  • It also conclude the proposed product stewardship arrangements offered insufficient assurance that use of any emergency authorisation would be appropriately ‘controlled’.
  • It said these were not as robust as those used in 2015 for tracking treated seed through the supply chain.
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