Farming Minister George Eustice has admitted the recent ban on neonicotinoids has actually increased overall pesticide use.
Mr Eustice made the remarks at the NFU’s first conference on the farmed environment in London today (December 11).
The UK Government’s decision to back planned EU restrictions on neonicotinoids was instrumental in getting the ban through in April this year.
Ministers were repeatedly warned at the time that such restrictions would lead to greater use of other pesticides such as pyrethroids, and in August, a top insect specialist questioned the usefulness of the ban.
Mr Eustice said: “There is something of a paradox on our pesticide use, which we do have to be aware of.
“Sometimes you can get unintended consequences by withdrawing certain products. Pesticide use has gone up, but one of the reasons for that, if we are blunt, is that having lost neonicotinoids to use on things like oilseed rape, we are seeing an increased use of foliar sprays.
“That is not to say the decision was wrong, I am just using it to highlight what is a very challenging problem.
“There are lots of integrated issues here and if you drive too much reliance on a smaller, dwindling number of products, you also get more problems with resistance and more use of pesticides.”
The Minister went on to say he would rather see farmers encouraged to use pesticides more carefully and judiciously than for blanket bans to be introduced.
He pointed out this was the approach put forward in the 25-Year Environment Plan, which focused heavily on Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
“We should do much more than has been done to date to promote IPM as a concept,” he said.
“When I was at agriculture college in the early 90s, IPM was quite a new thing, and it really does not seem to have moved on anywhere like as quickly as I would have expected.
“We are giving much more account of using pesticides as one of the tools in the box alongside different agronomic approaches, the use of natural predators and the use of modern genetic techniques to accelerate resistance.
“If we start to see a more judicious use of pesticides and using them alongside other types of intervention, that is what I regard as integrated pest management.”