Further restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides have been approved following a vote in the European Commission.
The UK voted in favour of the proposals that will see a ban on outdoor use of three neonicotinoids - clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam.
Currently, their use is banned for oilseed rape, spring cereals and sprays for winter cereals, but they can be used to treat sugar beet, various horticultural crops and as seed treatments for winter cereals, according to Defra.
NFU senior regulatory affairs adviser, plant health unit Dr Chris Hartfield said: “It is very disappointing. We have said all along that as a result of this farmers will find it a lot harder to control a whole range of pests and to establish crops, particularly in warmer, wetter areas.
“With sugar beet there are no alternatives to control the pests and viruses and farmers will be questioning whether they will be able to grow the crop in any sustainable way for their businesses. There will be a change in what farmers will be able to grow in the UK.
“The current restrictions have delivered no measurable benefit for bees so why are we doing more of the same?”
CLA chief land use policy adviser Susan Twining said: “This is another blow to farmers at a time of significant uncertainty. Removing yet another tool from farmers which helps them control pests and disease will negatively impact their ability to farm efficiently and profitably, as we develop a post-Brexit strategy for agriculture.
“It is vital that regulatory decisions on crop protection products follow a science-based approach and we respect the decision of the regulators on this matter. It is however incumbent on ministers and officials in the EU and the UK to think about the real world business impacts of these decisions, and work with us to provide the necessary support for farmers that need to find ways to combat pests, control costs and produce food efficiently.
"Above all we will be seeking reassurances from the Secretary of State that any restrictions will be enforced against all imports through Brexit and beyond.”
The Agricultural Industries Confederation said in its recently lobbying, it had argued against further restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids until the European Court of Justice ruled as to whether the current restrictions have a justified legal basis.
It said: “The current restrictions, which came into force in December 2013, prevent the use of the three neonicotinoids as granular applications to soil, seed treatments to cereals drilled from January to June, as well as uses as seed treatments, soil treatments or foliar applications to flowering crops (except when applied after flowering of the crop).
“Bayer and Syngenta challenged the Commission decision to restrict these uses on the basis of insufficient evidence of any serious risk to bee health, using unadopted risk assessment guidance and taking disproportionate action in the light of the perceived risk identified. AIC acted as an intervenor in the case. The legal challenge was heard at the European Court of Justice in February 2017 and it is understood that the General Court will deliver its judgment on the current restrictions on 17 May 2018.
“AIC asked the UK Government not to support the Commission proposals on further restrictions, if a vote took place on April 27, until the legal basis of current restrictions is decided by the court.”
Bayer said it was ‘surprised that, once again, legislative measures are being implemented without a prior thorough impact assessment. Beyond the costs for European farmers, the restrictions in place have already brought considerable unintended consequences: a lack of alternative solutions; more spray applications, leading to more CO2 emissions; an increased risk of resistant pest insects; and a return to older, less-effective chemicals’.
Defra said the current restrictions will stay in place until the new measures come into force following a phasing out period of around eight months.
It added: "Unless the scientific evidence changes, the government will maintain these increased restrictions post-Brexit. The UK reserves the right to consider emergency authorisations. We will only do so where there is a real need for the products and the risk to bees and other pollinators is sufficiently low."