The NFU has again applied for a derogation to allow oilseed rape (OSR) growers to use neonicotinoid seed treatments this autumn.
The union is seeking emergency use of the seed treatments, which are currently banned in flowering crops at EU level because of concerns about their impact on bee health, on a ‘limited proportion’ of the OSR crop in England.
NFU vice president Guy Smith said the application would be specifically targeted to fields at greatest risk from cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB), Mr Smith said.
The NFU has surveyed its members to improve understanding of which geographical areas are currently most at risk from the pest.
The Government’s Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) will consider the application before making a recommendation to the Government, which will make the final decision. The ECP’s next meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday.
Mr Smith said the decision to apply again - having secured emergency of the pesticide use over around 30,000ha in four counties in 2015 - was taken after assessing the evidence and having listened to the experiences of members this autumn.
Mr Smith said the damage caused by CSFB had contributed to a reduced area planted with OSR in England, which was down an estimated at 10–14 per cent down in 2015–16.
He said: “Farmers use all the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) when trying to protect their crops from pests, weeds and diseases and the use of plant protection products is just part of the solution.
“These insecticide seed treatments are effective in reducing the damage caused by the pest CSFB and prevent the destruction of an important crop, both environmentally and economically, for the arable industry.
“As the resilience of food production becomes more important than ever it is vital that regulation of plant protection products is based on sound science and evidence.
“The decreasing availability of these products to farmers is hampering UK farmers’ ability to produce the wholesome and affordable British food that shoppers in this country expect.”
Friends of the Earth called on the Government to ‘stand up for Britain’s bees and reject the NFU’s bid to use ‘banned’ bee-harming pesticides in UK fields this spring’.
The environmental campaign group said allowing the pesticides to be used would be ‘reckless and unnecessary’.
Friends of the Earth is urging the government to refuse the application on the basis that:
FoE bee campaigner Dave Timms said: “Oilseed rape yields have actually risen since the pesticide ban was introduced, while the evidence of the harm these chemicals pose to bees has increased.
“Bees are essential for pollinating our crops - we can’t afford to gamble with their future. The Government must keep these dangerous pesticides out of our fields.”
The environmental group is calling on the Chemicals Regulation Directorate to immediately publish the results of the split-field study it commissioned as a condition of the successful NFU application for neonicotinoid use last year, comparing crop losses of neonicotinoid-treated oilseed rape with untreated oilseed rape.