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Eustice rejects second NFU neonicotinoid emergency use application

A second application for emergency use of banned neonictoinoid seed treatments has been rejected by Defra. 

Neonicotinoids are banned because of concerns over bee health
Neonicotinoids are banned because of concerns over bee health

Farming Minister George Eustice has rejected a second application from the NFU to allow farmers to use banned neonicotinoid seed treatments on oilseed rape this autumn.

 

The NFU submitted two revised applications on June 1 to the Health and Safety Executive for emergency authorisation to allow the use on oilseed rape of Cruiser OSR and Modesto, which contain neonicotinoids.

 

The applications, submitted with AHDB, sought use of the banned chemicals to protect OSR from cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) damage across 120,000 hectares, 22 per cent, of the English OSR area.

 

It covered 15 counties where there is known resistance to foliar pyrethroid sprays or where there were ‘real problems trying to establish OSR’ over the past two years.

 

Mr Eustice, who rejected initial applications by the NFU and AHDB in May, again rejected both applications on the basis of advice submitted to the Government by its independent adviser, the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP).

 

The ECP found neither of the applications met the requirements for emergency authorisation. The full ECP advice can be found here

 

The ECP recognisd the potential for damage to crops by CSFB but rules the new applications do not meet the criteria for an emergency authorisation, as:

 

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

 

Disappointed

 

The NFU had made key changes to its second application to answer the questions raised by the ECP first time round, including looking again at AHDB data showing cabbage stem flea beetle pressure across the country.

 

The decision comes as a big blow to the NFU, after it secured emergency use of OSR across four counties in 2015,

 

NFU vice president Guy Smith said: "This is very disappointing for OSR growers. If we are faced with a difficult establishment period this autumn with high CSFB pressure, then I have no doubt we will lose thousands of acres to the pest.

 

"This will come as a bitter blow to arable farmers for whom OSR is one of the few crops showing a positive margin at the moment. It is also bad news for bees."

 

During the EU Referendum campaign, Mr Eustice promised a more science-led approach to regulation outside the EU, including the possibility of bringing back neonicotinoids, an irony not lost on Mr Smith.

 

Mr Smith said: "No doubt George will say he had to abide by EU legislation and he will hide behind the fact the ECP said we failed to show it was necessary and the application would be limited and targeted enough.

 

"But we await a British Chemical Directorate with hope."

 

Pollinators


Friends of the Earth bee campaigner Dave Timms said:“This is great news for bees and other wildlife. We are delighted the application has been refused.

 

“Despite having the advantage of secrecy, the evidence submitted by the NFU failed to convince the Government’s pesticide advisors.

 

“The NFU risks damaging public trust in British farming with its repeated attempts to get these dangerous pesticides back into our fields – instead they should concentrate on promoting bee-friendly ways to control crop pests.

 

“The Government must do all it can to safeguard our under-threat pollinators.

 

"This should include maintaining the current ban on bee-harming pesticides - and committing to upholding and enforcing EU nature protection rules, which are now at risk as we plan our Brexit.”


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Why the application was rejected

Why the application was rejected

EU rules allow emergency neonicotinoid authorisations for up to 120 days ‘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 NFU and AHDB applied for authorisations for Bayer CropScience's Modesto and Syngenta's Cruiser OSR to treat a sown area of 120,000ha, 22 per cent of last year’s OSR cropped area in England.

 

The application was based on AHDB data suggesting last year this area of crop exceeded the UK advisory threshold level for foliar applications of pyrethroid insecticides for CSFB control at crop emergence. The application covered 15 counties.

 

Nationally, crop loss at establishment attributed to CSFB was estimated at around 1 per cent last year.

 

The application also covered stewardship arrangements, which were similar to 2015 but with extra training for agronomists recommending the treatment.

 

Health and environmental impact

 

The HSE considered:

 

  • The proposed uses would not cause harm to human health and/or have an unacceptable effect on the environment.
  • There are no other reasonable and effective alternatives to control CSFB and reduce damage at crop establishment in high risk areas
  • There are no alternative chemical seed treatments to provide protection of the germinating seed from adult feeding damage
  • A case exists for use of neonicotinoid seed treatments in areas where pyrethroid resistance has been confirmed, as a means to reduce adult CSFB population levels to assist in optimising IPM
  • The provided some justification for the use of a damage threshold for treatment and the extent of pyrethroid resistance in identifying the limited area requiring this treatment.

Concerns

 

But the committee expressed numerous concerns with the application, including:

 

  • The limited guidance which was available on ‘limiting’ and ‘controlling’ use suggested that the criteria were to be determined on a case-by-case basis
  • Resistance management should not be the primary, nor sole, reason to grant an emergency authorisation
  • Crops which had struggled to establish could, in favourable conditions, still be managed to deliver ‘acceptable’ yields, but with associated cost and extra time management
  • Elements of the stewardship arrangements, including online training, were 'insufficiently robust'
  • Consequently, there was no evidence that treated seed would be supplied to areas at greatest risk, with no mechanism for assessing the respective merits of agronomists’ recommendations.

 

Lack of detail

 

  • The overriding criticsm was a lack of detail in the application submitted.
  • Most notably, the ECP complained the industry had failed to use the opportunity provided by the 2015 authorisations to generate an enhanced case for the emergency authorisation this year
  • It also described the statistical techniques employed to analyse the data as 'inappropriate in several aspects'.

 

Conclusion

The committee concluded the new applications sdo not meet the criteria for an emergency authorisation as:

  • There is still insufficient information to ensure that use will be limited only to those areas where there is greatest 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.

 

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