Don’t blame it on sunshine or moonlight ... Don’t blame it on good times (remember them?) ... Don’t even blame it on the boogie. Blame it on the precautionary principle.

Not so much catchy as catching, its misuse is almost wholly responsible for many of the anti-scientific decisions made in the EU and, to a lesser extent, the UK in the past few years.

In case you are not familiar with it, the Health and Safety Executive website gives a detailed description, but in short, the precautionary principle states that if there is any doubt over the safety of a product which has not been scientifically proven, but can reasonably be assumed, that product should not be approved.

This all seems perfectly reasonable, but as the HSE admits, the process is 'inevitably judgmental' so if, for instance, you have a Green MEP (Bart Staes) using the precautionary principle to co-write a report on the EU’s authorisation procedure for pesticides, you can be fairly sure that he is going to try and ban as many as possible – and who can blame him?

He is a Green MEP, that is what he is for. Don’t call it scientific, though. In fact, it is a trumping of science by politics.

If you applied the precautionary principle the way Mr Staes does in the law courts, you would assume all defendants were guilty unless they were able to absolutely prove their innocence. In hospitals, you would never operate on anyone or give them medicine on the basis that one time somebody died.

Paracetamol would be banned because if you take too many they kill you. If you drink 100 coffees it will kill you. Ban coffee.

Sit in the house all day where it’s safe, but not in the living room because according to the statistics that’s where most accidents occur in the home. That’s definitely true, I looked it up on the interweb. Actually, don’t sit down, you might get deep vein thrombosis. Ban sofas. Ban everything.

The problem with this is, not doing something can often be worse than doing it. Take the ban on neonicotinoids – because of cabbage stem flea beetle, this has caused up to a 25% drop in OSR production in England, ironically removing a vital early feed source from the bees and other pollinators the ban was supposed to protect and with only contentious and contradictory evidence that treating rape seed with neonics is harmful to bees.

Clorothalonil, which has been used by generations of farmers with no ill effects, is the latest plant protection product (PPP) to sink without trace, with diquat close behind it. The precautionary principle is going to do for chlorpropham very shortly as the EU standing committee responsible was unable to agree a majority decision and the EU Commission usually fail to renew approval in such cases.

According to an NFU paper, 'Healthy harvest', we have lost more than half of the PPPs available to us since 2001 and in case you thought bio-pesticides are exempt, they are subject to exactly the same rules, so important research and development is being stifled by unsustainable cost.

Contrary to what you might think, this is not a good thing for the planet, the farmers who grow the food, or the people who eat it. It will lead directly to an increased use of fossil fuels based on the need to cultivate more land to produce the same amount of crop and the loss of the ability to reduce tillage if glyphosate is banned.

An extremely well researched report by the consultants, Andersons, for NFU, entitled 'The effect of the loss of plant protection products on UK agriculture and horticulture, and the wider economy' concluded that ‘the current direction of policy in the area of PPP is likely to lead to considerable economic and social losses, with the gains, at best, uncertain or minimal.’

Yields are predicted to fall by between 4-50% based on the effect of losing PPPs classified as being restricted or not gaining reauthorisation. The UK would be more reliant on food imports which would not be subject to the same regulations, resulting in even less self-sufficiency and food security.

Food costs would be likely to rise and according to the report, ‘UK farming profit (total income from farming) drops by £1.73bn in monetary terms, which equates to a 36% drop in overall profits. These figures are based on a realistic assessment of the risks of losses of PPP, not a worst-case scenario.’

It goes on to state: ‘Any policies should be science-led and the assessment of risks undertaken on a proportionate basis. This will ensure a thriving agricultural sector and safe food for the UK population in future’.

With this and the deeply flawed EU report on the authorisation of chemicals in mind, Anthea McIntyre MEP (also on the committee for pesticide authorisation) has produced a science-based report challenging the official EU one and an impartial observer would be hard pressed to disagree with any of its conclusions.

In short, it calls for science to ‘come first, last and always in deciding the safety and effectiveness of PPPs’. It also recognised that the EU already has ‘one of the most stringent systems in the world’.

To put it another way, we already have belt and braces to hold up our pesticide trousers – let’s spare everyone the sight of taking them off in case they fall down.

I’m all for reducing pesticide use where possible, but let’s do it sensibly. Let’s use Integrated Crop Management, let’s use min till/no till where appropriate, let’s use gene editing as an alternative to pesticides and inorganic fertiliser, let’s use cover crops, let’s use wide rotations with grass, and let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater; let’s use pesticides sensibly where appropriate.

Let’s use our best land to produce as much as we sustainably can from it. But whatever we do, please let’s not use the precautionary principle.