A second application for emergency use of banned neonictoinoid seed treatments has been rejected by Defra.
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:
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."
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.”
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.
The HSE considered:
But the committee expressed numerous concerns with the application, including:
The committee concluded the new applications sdo not meet the criteria for an emergency authorisation as: