The likelihood of a total ban on neonicotinoids has been criticised by leading crop experts.
If the draft regulations, proposed by the European commission, are approved on the grounds of ‘high acute risks to bees’, the temporary ban on neonicotinoids will be extended to use on all field crops.
While the decision is still being considered, industry leaders and British farmers slammed the decision for its reliance on political judgement and its increasing damage on food and farming.
Dr Julian Little, spokesman for Bayer UK, argued the ban was disproportionate to the issue but said farmers must now prove the consequences of its loss before the vote in May.
He said: “It is just smacks of ‘wanton vandalism’.
“There has been no consideration of the growth of these critically important crops here in the UK which will all be hugely affected.
“They are the lifeblood of UK agriculture.”
Dr Little said the impact would not surround companies like Bayer but actually the wider UK agricultural industry.
He said it would be ‘bizarre’ to put a ban on crops that were ‘not even attractive’ to bees.
“There is still no evidence to suggest that restricting neonicotinoids helps bee populations, but it certainly harms farming and food production.”
- Sarah Mukherjee
“Why target the things which we are actually very good at here in the UK because of the apparent harm to bees?
“How many bees do you even find in a field of wheat, or barley? Quite simply, you don’t.”
Crop Protection Association (CPA) chief executive Sarah Mukherjee echoed the disappointment and criticised the decision for its ‘political judgement’.
It came as previous evidence suggested the temporary ban was impacting on the competitive position of EU farmers and was likely to bump up imports.
She added: “The proposal is based on an assessment using the unapproved Bee Guidance document and perfectly illustrates the consequences of using the guidance.
“Most crop protection products, including those used in organic agriculture, would not pass the realistic criteria.
“There is still not evidence to suggest that restricting neonicotinoids helps bee populations, but it certainly harms farming and food production.”
But Friends of the Earth campaigners backed the scientific evidence with claims the insecticide was harmful to bees, wildlife, soils and water.
Senior nature campaigner Paul de Zylva added: “Science is catching up with the pesticide industry – the EU and UK government must call time on neonics.
“Going neonic-free puts farmers more in control of their land instead of having to defer to advice from pesticides.”
NFU senior regulatory affairs adviser Chris Hartfield said: “Evidence from the Commission’s Joint Research Centre, presented in Brussels in January, clearly concluded that the current neonicotinoid restrictions have resulted in farmers significantly increasing use of insecticide sprays and other treatments. These alternatives are costing more in terms of money and time, plus are less effective at controlling pests. As a result pest numbers are increasing and there has been no observed benefit to beneficial insects as a result of the current restrictions.
“We are also surprised the Commission is putting these proposals on the table when just last month the legality of its original restrictions – based on guidance documents that still are not finalised or agreed by Member States – was debated before the EU General Court.
“While the Court is still considering the case, we believe the Commission is using the same guidance and flawed procedure to propose extending the ban. Proposing to do ‘more of the same’ before the Court has even given its judgment just shows to us how high-handed and autocratic the Commission’s approach to decision making appears to have become.”