The future of neonicotinoids continues to hang in the balance after an EU vote on a blanket ban was postponed this week.
Representatives from member states met on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss European Commission proposals to extend the ban on flowering crops to all outdoor crops, but no vote was taken.
It was feared the ban would be given the go ahead after Defra Secretary Michael Gove reversed the UK Government’s previous position and threw his weight behind the planned restrictions.
The issue is expected to be on the agenda again early next year.
Crop Protection Association chief executive Sarah Mukherjee said: “A vote at this stage would have been premature, given we are awaiting an assessment from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the verdict of two separate court cases on the legality of the existing restrictions on flowering crops.
“We remain concerned at the proposal, which seems more of a political judgement than sound science.
“The proposal is based on an assessment using the unapproved Bee Guidance document – a theoretical guidance document which is not supported by member states, is impractical, overly conservative and does not take into account realistic scenarios.”
Guy Smith, NFU vice president, echoed Ms Mukherjee’s comments about the court cases and EFSA assessment.
“The NFU and its members will continue to make the case to politicians and decision-makers both in Westminster and Brussels that the evidence does not justify further restrictions”, he added.
“We believe any decision should also take into account an assessment of the impact of restrictions on crop production.
“Farmers rely on bees to pollinate crops and have planted around 10,000 football pitches of flower habitat across the country to support a health bee population and give them a good home – all because they recognise the key role they play in producing safe, affordable food.”
Friends of the Earth were disappointed with the delay.
Sandra Bell, bee campaigner at the environmental group, said: “More delays to a full ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids are bad news for our precious pollinators and will cause more uncertainty for farmers.
“EU Governments must get off the fence by backing a ban on these chemicals.”