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.
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:
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.
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.”
The committee's response