Why the NFU is applying for a neonicotinoid derogation:
NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “The application for emergency use of neonicotinoid products is a regulatory process triggered by the hundreds of our members who are rapidly losing the ability to grow oilseed rape following the restriction of this insecticide placed in December 2013.
“As an arable farmer I am well aware of the importance of bees to the good pollination of my crops. Indeed one reason I like growing oilseed rape is because I know it provides a rich source of food for bees early in their foraging year. I'm also aware oilseed rape can provide nesting habitats for bird species such as reed buntings. Like many other farmers I also undertake measures to increase pollinators through the establishment of floristically enhanced environmental margins.
“The neonicotinoid seed dressing is an effective and targeted way of protecting crops, notably against cabbage stem flea beetle which last year caused significant losses on some farms. Without this dressing, growing one of the most important crops in the UK sustainably is becoming nearly impossible for many farmers and many are using older products which the pest is increasingly resistant to.
“The NFU’s application for the emergency authorisation of these crop treatments mirrors the action taken by other European countries under this EU-wide ban. Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria have all succeeded in securing emergency use of neonicotinoids – a vital plant protection product.
“Oilseed rape is a versatile crop; it is used in the production of biofuel and plastic as well as uses in food, even the co-product of extracting the oil is a meal that is fed to livestock. Last year the crops covered nearly 1.8 million acres of British countryside and over 2.1 million tonnes were produced.
“There are many unanswered questions as to why neonicotinoids have been restricted, and the impact on bees has developed into a polarised debate. It is within this context that the NFU is continuing to call for an evidential and scientific basis for the neonicotinoid restrictions. But until we see the balance of evidence which settles this debate, the NFU will try to ensure that farmers have the tools they need to protect their crops.”
Mike Hambly, chairman of NFU combinable crops board, said: “Like many farmers, I’ve found oilseed rape to perform well as a break crop, improving soil structure, breaking disease cycles and enabling techniques to be used that can prevent build-up of weed and disease resistance in my other cereals crops, but it’s viability as a crop is under significant threat.
“The neonicotinoid restrictions have been a huge frustration for the arable sector, particularly when compared with other countries whereinformed, science-baseddecisions are made.
“Oilseed rape growers in the aforementioned EU countries and others such as Canada, the US and Australia are allowed to use effective, yield enhancing tools such as neonicotinoids. UK growers must have access to the same crop production tool box as their competitors if OSR is to remain a viable crop for UK agriculture, creating diversity in the countryside and delivering many intrinsic environmental benefits.”