Pesticide battle rages on

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THE battle over the future of a range of pesticides intensified this week, with Alyn Smith MEP claiming some of his parliamentary colleagues were just “parroting what is in effect lobbying propaganda as if it were gospel handed down on tablets of stone”.

And in another move, a leading agronomist claimed the proposal to ban the neonicotinoids was “bad science based on emotion and not on reality”.

But for Scottish cereal growers, the big result of the week’s battles might be to exclude winter crops from any ban.

Back in November, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) reported that there might be risks to bees from neonicotinoids, which are mainly used to protect seeds from pests and diseases.

This week, the European Parliament agricultural committee debate saw Smith, who has campaigned on the issue for some time, state his belief that the decline in bee numbers was, at least in part, caused by toxic chemicals sprayed on to fields.

“I simply do not see how any other conclusion is possible based on the evidence available, not least after the EFSA study found clear links between the use of the chemicals and damage to bees,” he said.

“The potential consequences for agriculture, food and humankind of a continuing collapse in pollinators are stark. In any objective discussion there is always room for doubt but the more credible data is clear, there is a case to answer and there is a need to act.”

However fellow Scottish MEP George Lyon, who also sits on the committee argued persuasively that exemption from the ban for winter-sown cereals should be given and food and health commissioner, Toni Borg agreed to consider this possibility.

Lyon also said that an impact assessment had to be carried out before any ban was put in place.

In Perth yesterday, Eric Anderson of Scottish Agronomy was scathing about the ban being brought in at all. He claimed that if the same tests used by EFSA in coming to their conclusion were used in foodstuffs such as alcohol, salt or coffee, then they would be banned as well.

He quoted a study carried out in Europe showing the EU could lose €17 billion through the removal of the pesticides.