Farmers fail in bid to get ban on neonicotinoids ban lifted

The NFU was hoping to persuade DEFRA to allow farmers emergency use of neonicotinoids to combat pest

The NFU was hoping to persuade DEFRA to allow farmers emergency use of neonicotinoids to combat pest infestations. - Credit: Matthew Usher

New applications by farmers to use pesticides banned over concerns about their impacts on bees have been turned down.

The Government has turned down two “emergency” requests by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) to use pesticides known as neonicotinoids to prevent cabbage stem flea beetle infestation on 120,000 hectares, or around a fifth of England’s oilseed rape crop.

The pesticides have been banned by the European Union for crops such as oilseed rape, amid concerns over harmful impacts on bees, such as damaging their ability to forage and navigate, and colony growth.

But emergency use can be approved for limited and controlled circumstances where the problem cannot be dealt with in any other way.

The Government turned down the latest applications, which come after a failed bid by the NFU for use of the pesticides for a third of the oil seed crop in England, on the advice of their Expert Committee on Pesticides.

The committee said there was still insufficient information to ensure the chemicals, a coating applied to the seed and taken up by the plant, would only be used in areas where there is the biggest threat to the plants from the beetles.

And it warned that there was not “adequate assurance that the use would be controlled in an appropriate fashion”.

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Environment campaigners said the failure of the applications was “great news for bees and other wildlife”.

Friends of the Earth bee campaigner Dave Timms said: “The NFU risks damaging public trust in British farming with its repeated attempts to get these dangerous pesticides back into our fields - instead they should concentrate on promoting bee-friendly ways to control crop pests.

“The Government must do all it can to safeguard our under-threat pollinators.

“This should include maintaining the current ban on bee-harming pesticides - and committing to upholding and enforcing EU nature protection rules, which are now at risk as we plan our Brexit.”