The NFU intends to consider and evaluate a report from the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, not yet fully published to the public, if it is based on new evidence and sound science.
The report entitled the Worldwide Integrated Assessment looks at the impact the use of pesticides has on biodiversity and is due to be published today [24.6.14] or tomorrow; until then some brief conclusions are available but with minimal supporting scientific back-up.
NFU Vice President, Guy Smith said: “Until we see the full report and the science behind the findings, we can’t make any judgement on whether they progress our knowledge or not. From what we have seen in the brief conclusions, there’s a direct, and invalid, comparison to a book published in 1956 called Silent Spring and the pesticide use then.
“We’ve come a long way in pesticide development and application in the 58 years since this was published – it was in the infancy of pesticide use and the practice, research and development that has occurred since has put the farming industry in a much stronger position both in terms of best practice and environmental protection.
“It’s important to consider the bigger picture: there’s been no intensification in agriculture in the last 25 years – the application of pesticides has been declining. So, to attribute the environmental degradation to farming is farcical.
“Even so, this has been untimely given our recent launch of Healthy Harvest, a campaign which intends to safeguard crop and plant protection products – the spin that has been created by the media without the full knowledge of the science behind the bold conclusions has created an imbalanced argument. There’s a very real risk that complex regulatory issues will be over simplified and sensationalised to the detriment of both productive agriculture, but also for the wider environment.
“Nonetheless, we will continue to lobby for evidence-based decisions in terms of regulation as well as more research and development of new and safe active ingredients of pesticides to support farmers and growers in the UK.
“If, when we see the report there is new evidence and sound science that we haven’t yet seen, then we will fully consider and evaluate this. But until then, we can only wait.”