NFU disappointment at neonicotinoids bid blow

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

A bid to allow UK farmers hit by cabbage stem flea beetle infestations emergency use of neonicotinoid seed treatments has been rejected by Farming Minister George Eustice.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) submitted an application along with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) to enable farmers to use the controversial pesticide, which is used to coat oilseed rape seeds to provide protection for plants in their early stages.

It said the decision was a blow, but it would continue its efforts and look into making further applications to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on behalf of farmers.

An EU-wide ban was introduced after fears were raised about the chemicals’ effect on pollinating insects, but individual states were given powers to lift the ban in certain circumstances.

DEFRA, which issued a statement setting out the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides’ (ECP) reasons for advising refusal, said the requirements for emergency authorisation mean that an authorisation can only be granted if the product has benefits which cannot be achieved by other means. In survey data presented by the applicants, there was only a weak relationship between regional crop infestation by CSFB and regional patterns of crop damage and loss, it said, and the applicants “had provided insufficient evidence to enable the ECP to determine an appropriate scale of use and where or how this should be targeted”.

NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “This is a blow for arable farmers across the country whose oilseed rape crops are under heavy threat from cabbage stem flea beetle. We are disappointed with the Minister’s decision; we strongly argued the case on behalf of our members.

“We remain committed to obtaining approval for the emergency use of neonicotinoid seed treatments for this planting season. These plant protection products are absolutely vital in protecting England’s oilseed rape crop from pests.”