Last month, the European Commission submitted new proposals to a Standing Committee of Member States in Brussels called SCOPAFF (Standing Committee of Plants, Animals, Food and Feed) to ban all outdoor uses of neonicotinoid seed treatments in non-bee-attractive crops such as wheat, barley, sugar beet and vegetables. In their explanation, the Commission based their proposals on a potential risk to bees invoking a Bee Guidance document which has not been ratified by the Member States. These proposals arise from the Commission despite the very obvious non-sequitur; bees do not forage on cereals, sugar beet or vegetables – how could such a ban have any effect on bee health, either positively or negatively?
Clearly one would assume the Commission must have looked at the impact of removing these products on a farmer’s ability to grow a safe, high quality, affordable crop of wheat or barley or sugar beet or indeed fresh vegetables? Why do farmers use such products and what would they use in their absence? But disappointingly and surprisingly, no such impact assessment has been presented by the Commission in defence of their proposals.
Surprisingly? Because it did not take the industry long to see the top level effects on UK agriculture, just in wheat:
These proposals will be discussed at the next Standing Committee scheduled for May 2017. Normally they would be discussed at length but the Commission has also included in the proposals the possibility of a rapid phase out to come into force next year. The worry is that when the UK Government comes to the negotiation table at that meeting, it will disengage from the fight citing either Brexit or the upcoming General Election.
What can be done about it? Clearly farmers’ concerns must be explained to the politicians in Brussels and Westminster who will ultimately make the decision about the use of insecticidal seed treatments. If you are concerned about the loss of these products we would recommend that you write a letter or email to your local MP and the MEPs in your area. Or why not invite them to your farm so you can explain the situation to them in person?
To find your MP, input your post code into the box on the right hand side of the screen at http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/
Let’s stop the proposed neonicotinoids ban.