The UK’s Government’s shock decision to ban metaldehyde from spring 2020 is ‘very disappointing’ and will have a ‘major impact’ on farmers, according to the NFU.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove made the decision to ban the chemical’s use after receiving advice from the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that it posed an ‘unacceptable risk to birds and mammals’.
The ban will not apply in permanent greenhouses.
Mr Gove said: “I recognise that significant effort has been put into encouraging growers and gardeners to use this pesticide responsibly by the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group.
“However, the advice is clear that the risks to wildlife are simply too great – and we must all play our part in helping to protect the environment.”
NFU deputy president Guy Smith described the announcement as ‘very disappointing’.
He said: “These products have been reauthorised for use in 21 EU member states and this ban is another decision that will have an impact on food production in the UK.
“It simply gifts a competitive advantage to farmers abroad who will export into our markets using crop protection materials banned in the UK.”
In his statement, Mr Gove also encouraged farmers and growers to use ferric phosphate as an alternative to metaldehyde.
But Mr Smith warned relying on one active ingredient could be problematic.
“Farmers and growers already use a holistic approach to slug control to keep the use of slug pellets to a minimum,” he said.
“While ferric phosphate can be used as an alternative slug control treatment it is possible that resistance could develop, as we have seen with other pesticide products when alternatives have been removed and farmers and growers have been left to rely on one active ingredient.”
The union also pointed to research from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board which has estimated that a lack of slug control products could cost UK crop production £100 million a year.
It will be legal to sell metaldehyde products for outdoor use for the next six months, with use of the products then allowed for a further 12 months.