NFU intervenes in EU Bayer hearing on behalf of British farmers

The NFU is representing farming in the EU Court of Justice today (3 June), telling judges that the European Commission’s 2013 neonicotinoids restrictions are not lawful and have a real impact on British farmers’ livelihoods.

The hearing is an appeal by Bayer of the judgment of the EU General Court from May 2018. The Court dismissed the challenges and upheld the lawfulness of the Commission’s action.

The NFU is an intervener in the case in support of Bayer’s appeal.

The appeal raises several issues with the EU General Court’s judgment:

  • The standard of review set by the Court is wrong in law (and too low)
  • That the Commission should have assessed the actives using a risk assessment set out by the legislation
  • That the regulatory uncertainty created by the judgment in respect of products with existing approvals will stifle innovation and investment in the crop protection sector
  • That (contrary to the judgment) the Commission’s discretion is not unlimited and the precautionary principle does not allow the Commission to set legal procedure aside
  • That the precautionary principle cannot be a ‘universal incantation’ to block innovation
  • That the Commission should have undertaken a proper risk assessment and the Court should not endorse the Commission acting only on hypothetical risks – the ‘fear of risk’ is not enough; there should be a proper scientific assessment.

NFU chief legal adviser Nina Winter said:

“The appeal is less about the actives in issue and much more about the way that the EU Commission brought in the restrictions in the first place, rubber stamped by the EU General Court.
“Our intervention focuses on errors we believe were made by the General Court; it allowed the Commission to bring in the restrictions without a proper cost benefit analysis – the Commission didn’t assess either the impacts on bees or on farmers when it brought in the restrictions – and the Court didn’t hold the Commission to the requirements of the legislation which sets out how approvals are to be reviewed. That worries us as farmers both in respect of other plant protection products but also more widely.”

The NFU’s intervention is supported by the NFU's Legal Assistance Scheme.

Click here to find out more about the Legal Assistance Scheme.

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