UK: EU pesticides ban under fire from farmers and landowners

A bee on lavender

A bee on lavender - Credit: PA

FARMERS’ and landowners’ leaders have hit out at a European Union-wide ban on neonicotinoid pesticides following fears about the effects on bee populations.

Country Land and Business Association president Harry Cotterell said it set “a dangerous precedent”, and the National Farmers’ Union’s lead on bee health Dr Chris Hartfield warned it was likely to have “catastrophic impacts” for food production and possible unintended consequences.

“We are concerned that the ban is based on incomplete evidence gained from limited laboratory testing, rather than field-based trials that accurately reflect the use of these pesticides in farming practice,” said Mr Cotterell.

“The decision has set a dangerous precedent by allowing the ban of these three products, based on such limited evidence.”

Bees play a significant role as pollinators in agriculture and biodiversity, he added.

“We support reasonable measures being put in place to ensure their survival.

“We are worried about the effect this ban will have on British arable farmers and fruit growers who may be forced to use old-fashioned treatments to protect their crops.”

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Dr Hartfield said: “The Commission’s decision to ban three widely used neonicotinoids is likely to have catastrophic impacts for food production and unintended consequences for the environment, without delivering any measurable benefits for bee health.

“It is right that we take steps to protect bees – they are vital pollinators, but, any action needs to be proportionate to the problem. Crucially, we have to be confident that when we make changes, these changes will actually deliver benefits. At the moment, there is no evidence to show that there are any harmful effects of neonicotinoids on bees under field conditions. If we cannot find evidence of harm in the field, then it follows that we will not be able to measure any benefits of a ban either.

“This issue is about science and evidence, and finding a balanced way to tackle the significant challenges to bee health. However, it looks like we are about to make populist changes that do nothing to measurably improve the situation for bees, but will make it harder and more costly for farmers and growers to control pests on a whole range of agricultural and horticultural crops.”