UK Farmers Denied Second Neonic Exemption
Britain’s National Farmers Union (NFU) said it was “deeply disappointed” over the rejection by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) of its second request for growers to use restricted neonicotinoids (neonics) on oilseed rape crops this autumn.
The NFU said it had submitted a revised application for a derogation to allow growers to use two neonic-based seed treatments on oilseed rape crops in English counties considered to be “hotspots” for cabbage stem flea beetle attacks. The second application, it said, was narrower than the first, which requested a derogation to cover 33% of England’s oilseed rape growing area.
DEFRA said it had rejected the latest request on request from the government’s independent adviser, the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides, which found that neither of the applications met the requirements for emergency authorization under EU rules.
The farmers’ grouping called the latest decision “a bitter blow at a time when oilseed rape is one of the few arable crops with a good, positive margin.” The NFU has consistently refuted the results of lab studies linking neonics to a decline in bee populations while calling for more field research “to establish the true effect of neonics on these important pollinators.”
Environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth (FoE) called the DEFRA decision “good news for bees and other pollinators,” adding that “the government must do all it can to safeguard our under-threat pollinators.”
FoE campaigners said the UK should maintain the EU’s current moratorium on the use on bee-harming pesticides and commit to upholding and enforcing EU nature protection rules, “which are now at risk as we plan our Brexit.” The EU’s 2013 moratorium on using neonicotinoid-based pesticides on certain flowering crops, including sunflowers, barley and oilseed rape, was due to be reviewed last year, but so far has not come up.
Since the ban was introduced, British media reports said scientists at Rothamsted Research have warned of increasing levels of resistance in flea beetle populations in southeast England to pyrethroid sprays, commonly used as the chemical control alternative.