Friends of the Earth have sent a detailed report to the Expert Committee on Pesticides in the hope that they will disregard an application for farmers to use harmful pesticides. The pesticides, called ‘neonicotinoids’, have been proven to be damaging to bees. A similar application was granted by Government last year.
The Government’s official pesticide advisor is being urged by Friends of the Earth to reject an application for farmers to use ‘banned’ bee-harming pesticides in UK fields.
Today the Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) will consider an application by the NFU for farmers to use restricted neonicotinoid seed treatments on oilseed rape crops later this year. A similar application was granted by the Government last year, following a recommendation by the ECP that it be accepted. Neonicotinoid treated oil seed rape was planted in four counties in the East of England.
Three neonicotinoid pesticides were restricted throughout the EU in 2013 after scientists warned they posed a “high acute risk” to honeybees. Last year the Government granted an application and neonicotinoid treated oil seed rape was planted in four counties in the East of England.
The NFU says that the pesticides are needed to prevent oil seed rape crops being harmed by Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle (CSFB).
Friends of the Earth has submitted a detailed report to the ECP highlighting the feasibility of farming methods which use non-chemical and agronomic methods. This would minimise the risk from pests to oilseed rape grown without neonicotinoids.
Sandra Bell, Bee Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Bees are crucial for pollinating our crops – we mustn’t allow pesticides that harm them.
“Since the restriction on neonicotinoid pesticides was introduced, the average oil seed rape yield has actually increased.
“With growing evidence about the health impact on our bees, and serious question marks about the effectiveness of neonicotinoids – Ministers must listen to the science and keep these pesticides out of our fields.”
The environmental campaign group says there is no case for granting another authorisation of neonicotinoids for oil seed rape for a number of reasons.
They show that the average UK yield of oilseed rape rose by nearly 7 per cent in the most recent harvest – the first without the use of neonicotinoids – contradicting NFU predictions of widespread crop losses.
Neonicotinoid pesticides are not a guarantee of protection from CSFB – their effectiveness is increasingly being questioned. The results of a survey of last year’s treated crops has not been released.
There is increasing evidence that neonicotinoids may harm the beneficial insects that help farmers to control pests like slugs – which in 2015 caused as much damage to oil seed rape as CSFB.
Claims that reductions in the total area of oil seed rape grown in the UK are mainly down to the non-availability of neonicotinoids are misleading – the market price for OSR is a more important factor for most farmers than pest pressure.
Damage from CSFB in 2015 was slightly lower than the previous growing season, and not at a level that constitutes an emergency. Although the focus has been on crop losses attributed to CSFB, losses due to other reasons – such as slug grazing – were at a similar level.
Encouraging beneficial pest-busting insects and farming methods such as ‘minimum cultivation’ and early sowing can minimise the risk from pests without the use of neonicotinoids.