ANALYSIS - Too many regulations regarding chemicals and crop protection products are being made for short-term political expediency rather than being based on solid science.
One of the over-riding messages from the British Crop Production Council Congress in Brighton is that too many lawmakers are ignoring science or are too distant from farming reality when making decisions over products to protect crops.
The conference heard that a decision to ban neonicotinoids to protect crops such as oil seed rape from pests such as flea beetle could have a detrimental effect on pollinators.
Expert in bee ecotoxicology Mike Coulson from Syngenta said that evidence that had been used to enforce the ban on neonicotinoids had been taken from lab tests rather than field tests and results had been skewed because of the difference in concentration of the chemicals.
He showed in field tests in Alsace that the use of neonicotinoids had no impact on bee colonies.
Don Pendergrast, Plant Health Adviser, UK National Farmers Union told the congress that without neonicotinoids the UK will see less oil seed rape as crops a not fully protected and this in turn will see a fall in the numbers of pollinators because oil seed rape is such a good source of pollen.
Farmers and growers are experiencing an impact from the ban on neonicotinoids,” Mr Pendergrast said.
He said that a lack of involvement of those with wider practical experience in the farming sector in framing EU legislation is having a negative consequence.
“Farmers and growers take environmental stewardship very seriously,” Mr Pendergrast said.
“However it often seems that, no matter how well they manage their use of pesticides, regulators will just keep on removing products. Even those most critical – and proved safe in use over many years – seem to be under threat.”
He said that the need for effective crop protection solutions is becoming even more acute with a rising demand for more food production from the same amount of land while climate change is increasing the incidence of both domestic and alien pests and diseases.
This is at a time when the armoury of products is being markedly reduced due to the application of the precautionary principle, using hazard-based EU legislation rather than sensible application of risk-assessment.