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Government rejects applications for emergency authorisations of use of neonics in sugar beet

The Government has rejected applications made by the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) for emergency authorisations of use of neonicotinoids as a seed treatment for sugar beet next year.


Marianne   Curtis

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Marianne   Curtis
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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) have recommended that BBRO’s emergency applications for the use of neonicotinoids should not be granted, on the grounds that the risks to bees and the wider environment contained in the proposals are too great. Ministers have accepted these recommendations and the applications have therefore been refused, according to a Defra statement.

 

NFU Sugar and British Sugar issued a joint statement saying they were disappointed by the UK Government’s decision to reject the British beet sugar industry’s emergency application for the use of neonicotinoids for the 2019/20 season.

 

They said: "There will be serious concerns within the industry that there is no viable solution currently available to protect the crop from the threat of virus yellows disease. We believe if disease threat reaches levels seen in previous years, the crop could face serious problems.

 

“Both ourselves, together with the British Beet Research Organisation, are currently reviewing the decision made by the Government and cannot comment further until this has been completed.”

 

The UK voted in favour of European Commission proposals that will see a ban on outdoor use of three neonicotinoids - clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam.

 

The Government said that it could consider emergency authorisations in exceptional circumstances but that these would only be granted where there was a real need for the products and the risk to pollinators and humans was sufficiently low.


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Three requirements

 

For emergency authorisations to be granted, three requirements must be met – the case for need; limited and controlled use; and risks to people and the environment.

 

The HSE and ECP said that BBRO had made a case for need which met the legal requirement for emergency authorisation, which is that such a measure appears necessary because of a danger which cannot be contained by any other reasonable means.

 

HSE and ECP also said that the application met the second requirement for limited and controlled use because all UK sugar beet is grown under commercial contracting arrangements with assessors agreeing that this provided an effective mechanism for controlling distribution and use of the treated seed.

 

However, the application failed on the third criteria for emergency authorisation – risks to humans and the environment, with risks to bees and the wider environment being cited as the reasons for refusal by Defra.

 

Defra said it is possible for further applications to be made but that any such applications would need to provide additional evidence to address the following points:

  • Clarifying the method for predicting the need to use neonicotinoids
  • The risk to bees from succeeding flowering crops in soil with neonicotinoid residues
  • Refining the risk assessment for birds and mammals and/or outlining a list of mitigating effects which can be applied
  • Impacts on aquatic invertebrates
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