AN announcement by secretary of state for DEFRA, Michael Gove MP today that he will 'in principle' support the European Commission's proposal to ban the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments in non-flowering crops, has cause strong reaction across the industry. 
A spokesperson for Bayer in the UK, Dr Julian Little, said: "This is a bizarre decision and one that flies in the face of sound science. The Government's own UK Biodiversity Indicators published only this summer show that butterfly, bee and hover fly population numbers have stabilised since 2011 and this was confirmed only earlier this week in response to a Parliamentary question. The suggestion that the extension of this ban to non-flowering crops, which pollinating insects do not visit, will somehow improve the health of bees is farcical.
"We do know from talking to farmers that such a ban would seriously impact the UK's ability to grow high quality wheat, barley, sugar beet and some vegetable crops, just as UK farmers are trying to gear up to life after European subsidies. Farmers will have to resort to older chemical sprays to control damaging insect pests rather than the targeted seed treatments currently employed, and will have to use much larger quantities of slug pellets, just at the time when we are trying to reduce their use. 
"Today's decision is therefore a kick in the teeth for UK agriculture: it makes farmers less competitive, it means less environmentally friendly chemicals being used in the countryside, it means no improvement in the lot of bees or other pollinators, and it says to the green lobby that if you make enough noise, you can trump evidence-based policy making.”
Also commenting, NFU Scotland deputy director of policy, Andrew Bauer, said: “We have noted Mr Gove’s comments on what is now the latest chapter in a long debate on neonicotinoids and will look for further information from DEFRA in the coming days. 
“What is key for the farming community now is that we have clarity for the future and that no matter the outcome or decision that our members have access to safe and effective plant protective products which are vital to the industry.”