EU move ‘could threaten development of pesticides’

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A CLAIM that present proposals
to ban neonicotinoid insecticides and introduce onerous new regulations on other chemicals up for approval could lead to a complete loss of investment by major chemical companies was made yesterday.

Mike Bushell is the principal scientific advisor with Syngenta, the Swiss-based chemical company currently embroiled in a battle to retain the use of one of its major pesticides used in the treatment of oilseed rape seed. He was adamant that no-one would invest in any future programme of insecticide approval if new regulations came in.

“Any new product with even moderate toxicity to bees would require an incredibly expensive field programme using thousands of beef hives. It would be impossible and impractical to run such a programme and nobody would invest in it,” he said.

He believed that much of the current furore over the future use of neonicotinoids was ideologically driven by those who wished to remove all crop protection products from the market.

Neonicotinoids are the most important family of insecticides and their removal from the market could have wide-ranging economic consequences for European farmers, he claimed.

Farmers would be left with very few options to protect their crops and even those chemicals that remained would soon lose their effectiveness, he argued.

Although the big political concern over the continued use of the neonicotinoids relates to potential danger to the bee population, Bushell said that it was noticeable that many bee keepers did not agree as they accepted there were many other possible reasons for the collapse of their hives.

The whole issue was triggered by a report by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) expressing concern over a linkage between neonicotinoid use and upsets in the bee population.

Bushell disputed their results, saying he was seriously concerned over how the EFSA 
assessment had been carried out, claiming that it did not reflect field conditions

Following that report, the EU Food and Health commissioner, Toni Berg, indicated that a ban on certain neonicotinoids could be in the offing. However, with maize – another crop that uses the seed treatment – and oilseed rape crops being grown extensively across Europe, there is a resistance to a complete ban and a compromise paper is being prepared by the commissioner which will be considered in the middle of next month.