New European Commission Proposals Threaten Cereal and Sugar Beet Seed Treatments in the UK
1. What is the European Commission proposing?
In March 2017, the European Commission submitted new proposals to a Standing Committee of Member States 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 and sugar beet. In their explanation, the Commission based their proposals on a Bee Guidance document which has not been ratified by the Member States.
2. In theory when could these proposals come into force?
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.
3. Is there any way of stopping the new ban?
Yes, we believe that since the proposals by the European Commission are both illogical and totally disproportionate, we can change their minds with your help.
4. What makes you think that this isn’t a fait accompli?
The decision to table these proposals was made without any consideration of the impact that any ban would have on a UK (or European) farmer’s ability to grow a high quality affordable crop of wheat, barley or sugar beet. We are all concerned about bee health, but to propose a ban based on concerns for bees and other pollinating insects is frankly bizarre – bees do not forage, or even normally visit, cereals or sugar beet.
5. Has anyone made any calculations as to what additional sprays would be needed if Deter was lost?
Deter is used as a seed treatment in wheat and barley, mainly to control aphids, the major vector involved in the highly damaging viruses BYDV and CYDV. In the absence of a seed treatment, farmers would need to spray an extra one or two times with a broad spectrum insecticide such as a pyrethroid. Since farmers use Deter for the control of aphids and BYDV on an area of one million hectares in the UK (mainly south of the M4 and east of the A1), it is estimated that more than 1 million hectares would receive another insecticide spray that it does not have today – an area half the size of Wales!
In addition, the extra spraying will use about 220,000 litres of diesel (enough fuel to power 20 cars to the moon and back) and up to 200 million litres of water (enough to fill 80 Olympic size swimming pools).
6. What about other uses of Deter – I use it instead of slug pellets?
Nearly half of farmers surveyed use Deter more for its ability to “deter” slug attack on the seeds than for its insecticidal activity. In the absence of an effective seed treatment, it has been estimated that an extra 1,600 tonnes of slug pellets would have to be used, an overall increase of slug pellet use of over 60%. This weight of slug pellets is the equivalent of 200 elephants or 1,000,000 times the weight of the human brain who dreamed up this daft idea!
7. What is the situation with Poncho Beta?
The use of Poncho Beta and Cruiser seed treatments in sugar beet would also be banned under these proposals – in this crop, there is no alternative spray to control the most important aphids, and many fear that beet virus yellows may be impossible to control in the absence of an effective seed treatment.
8. What can I do about this?
Clearly this situation must be explained to the politicians in Brussels, Westminster and even in the devolved parliaments in Scotland, Ireland and Wales who will ultimately make the decision about the use of insecticidal seed treatments. 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?
9. Where can I find who my MP or MEP is?
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/
To find the MEPs for your area, take a look at http://www.europarl.org.uk/en/uk-meps/your-members-in-the-european-parliament
10. What should I include in any letter or email that I send?
• Most importantly, an MP, MEP or a politician in Brussels or Westminster (or in devolved parliaments) wants to hear about what impact any new ban would have on your ability to economically grow a high quality crop of wheat, barley or sugar beet.
• Why do you use them, and what would you do if they were not available? Would you have to spray more often and/or use more slug pellets, and if so, what would you use, and how much more?
• What about the negative effects of extra sprays on beneficial insects etc, such as lacewing, ladybirds, spiders and ground beetles?
• Explain what you think about the Commission making such proposals without checking what impact they may have on growing cereals or sugar beet in your area.
• You might want to explain to them how many pollinating insects you see in your field of wheat or barley or sugar beet.
• Give them your opinion of the proposals. Essentially it is important that this email or letter is personal to your circumstances.
11. Who else could I send a letter or email to?
You might want to also send the email or letter to the Secretary of State for DEFRA (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to Environment Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis (email@example.com) and Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
12. When should I send a letter or email in? When will we hear more?
We anticipate that these proposals will be discussed at the next Standing committee in May so now would be a good time to be sending in your thoughts.