Maintaining production of many UK crops is at risk if neonicotinoids are more widely restricted or banned completely, according to Rothamsted Research.
“Furthermore, if groups of chemistries are limited by legislation, the remaining groups will be more widely used, resulting in an increased risk of pests developing resistance to them,” says a position statement from the institute.
Its concern follows the release of draft proposals by the EU to replace its temporary restriction on the use of three neonicotinoids on crops that flower, introduced in 2013 in response to disputed claims about the impact of the pesticides on bees, with a widespread ban across Europe.
In the UK, the ‘restricted use’ ban affected mainly oilseed rape crops. “It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to maintain production of many crops if neonicotinoids are more widely restricted or banned completely,” says Rothamsted.
“For example, in sugar beet, the control of aphids and the virus diseases they spread, is totally reliant on neonicotinoid seed treatments because the aphids are resistant to other control chemistries.”
The statement also highlights how the neonicotinoid ban has cost the European oilseed rape farming industry €900 million a year, according to a report from the European Crop Protection Association, which represents chemicals companies.
The institute laments the lack of evidence for the pesticide restrictions, drawing attention to the number of reports by vested interests from both sides of the debate.
The institute calls for “a proper science-led risk assessment to understand the effects of pesticides. This will help us balance the risks and benefits for crop protection, crop pollination, ecosystem function and our health appropriately.
“It is vital that research is done to study crop protection in its broadest sense, combining conventional chemical control with better surveillance of pests, weeds and diseases, understanding and mitigating for pesticide resistance and developing next generation crop protection,” it says.