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Neonictinoids 2021 suspended

March 7, 2021 7:08 PM
By David Appleton in GLD Challenge magazine 2020-21

wikimedia Thiacloprid_structureTHE GOVERNMENT'S PROPOSED DEROGATION ON THE USE OF NEONICOTINOID PESTICIDE ON SUGAR BEET CROPS IN 2021.

Although the Government looked at giving farmers a derogation to use neonicotinoid pesticides ('neonics') on sugar beet for 2021, which have been banned in the UK/EU since 2017/2018 due to the growing weight of scientific evidence they are harmful to bees and other pollinators, the derogation has not been granted for this year. The proposed derogation was due to the threat posed by viruses carried by aphids which can reduce crop yields by up to 75%. However, recent cold weather has reduced the aphid population sufficiently such that the derogation is considered unnecessary.

The UK sugar industry involves 3,000 beet growers and supports up to 9,500 UK jobs. UK beet production occupies approx. 100,000 hectares (0.57%) of UK farmland, and meets approx. 50% of the country's demand for sugar.

Supporters of the derogation contended that it was reasonable to protect yields, as farmers would have been required to take measures to protect bees and other insects from coming into contact with neonic-affected flowers. The sugar beet crop is harvested before it flowers and following flowering crops were not permitted to be grown within the same field for up to 32 months after the beet crop. However, neonics are estimated to be 10,000 times more toxic than DDT, and the UK/EU ban was based on mounting evidence that they have seriously detrimental effects on pollinator populations vital for agriculture and ecosystems. Rather than giving a derogation, the Government should have agreed to provide a compensation scheme for farmers who suffered a loss of yield due to the virus, whilst encouraging and acceleration in the pace of research and movement to integrated pest management systems.

There is a risk now that the derogation has not been granted that farmers may use more active ingredients of other older insecticide sprays.

Substituting sugarcane from abroad to meet our demand for sugar increases the use of toxic chemicals to control insect pests often applied by poorly equipped small holders in sugar-producing nations.

The neonic ban remains for 2021 but a derogation in 2022 is possible, particularly if there is no frost over next winter to keep the overwintering population of aphids low.

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David Appleton