With only days to go before restrictions on crop protection products begin, the NFU has described the lack of an EU impact assessment to determine the effect on pollinators and crop production as ‘alarming’.
The NFU believes that the decision to restrict the use of neonicotinoids in flowering crops, such as oilseed rape, is not justified by the available scientific evidence but could have serious consequences for farmers’ ability to grow produce sustainably. NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond said there was ‘already considerable uncertainty about oil seed rape and linseed plantings in 2014’.
The two-year suspension was forced through by the European Commission earlier this year after member states failed to reach a definitive decision.
The decision was based research showing various ‘sub-lethal effects’ on bees exposed to the chemicals in laboratory experiments, including reduced colony growth and impaired foraging and homing behaviour.
The UK Government and agrochemical and farming industries have consistently argued that these studies used much higher doses than would be deployed in the field.
Research recently published by Syngenta shows there were no differences in the health of bees located next to fields of neonicotnoid-treated crops than and those located next tom untreatded ‘controls’ during five-year trials.
The NFU added that evidence published in the summer shows that since the neonicotinoids were introduced in the UK in the early 1990s, the rate of decline of bumblebees in Great Britain has slowed, and the biodiversity of other wild bees has increased.
It is suggested that these biodiversity improvements during the last two decades are the result of agri-environmental measures put in place by farmers, the NFU said.
NFU deputy President Meurig Raymond called for decision makers across the EU to conduct an ‘impact assessment urgently and rethink the decision to restrict the use of what is an absolutely critical product for many farmers’.
He said: “It is alarming that we are about to see these restrictions come into force and there still hasn’t been an impact assessment done to determine whether or not there will be net environmental benefits, or what the scale of impacts on food and ornamentals production will actually be.
“The decision was made by the European Commission, and not supported by all member states because of concerns about the science behind it. It will be producers left to count the on-going cost of a decision made in haste and unsupported by the field-based evidence, which runs contrary to risk-based policy making.
“We are calling on regulators to act to evaluate and answer the key questions posed by this regulation - on the true scale and basis of pollinator decline and the real risk posed by neonicotinoids to pollinators in the wider environment.”