Neonicotinoids were a key point of discussion at the NFU Conference, following the high number of imports from countries that still use the chemical.
Since July 2019, the UK has imported almost 100,000 tonnes of oilseed rape from Ukraine, where neonicotinoid insecticides are still used, costing UK arable farmers almost £95 million in lost opportunity and mass crop failure, according to the NFU.
When questioned over the differing standards, Defra secretary George Eustice said Brexit had created the opportunity to ‘look afresh’ at legislation, but Government will not take risks with public health or the environment.
NFU president Minette Batters argued that the ‘environment and welfare is under one sky’, adding: “We have absolutely embraced the net zero ambition and want to be world leaders in climate friendly farming, but if we are going to be subsumed by imports that don’t have to abide by those rules, it does enormous damage and puts farmers out of business.”
Mr Eustice said that in future trade deals, Government wants to recognise environmental impact and animal welfare, and address the issue of differences in regulation.
He said: “Most of the animal feeds we import are GM based even though we don’t allow the cultivation here. In the case of pesticides, if there’s an MRL, that is something you can set down clearly in any trade.
"Where it’s an environmental issue in the case of neonics, that’s harder to do. If there were threat to human health, and we decided to withdraw a pesticide for that reason, we would set the MRL for that on all imported goods to zero.”