The role that European Union plays in the control of pesticides is an issue that has been the cause of some considerable concern to UK farmers, and East Midlands farmers in particular.  With considerable swathes of the East Midlands given over to arable agriculture this is an issue that Andrew has been keeping an eye on. 


A key concern is that a precautionary principle to limiting or banning pesticides is causing significant harm to the regions arable farming industry.  This is somewhat akin to putting the cart before the horse and raises concerns that limited evidence is being used to justify the banning of some critically important pesticides.  This has implications for cost effective food production, and perversely, for wildlife.


Andrew has already met the NFU who have highlighted the bewildering array of EU directives that pesticides could fall foul of, including the Water Framework Directive, which could lead to many chemicals becoming banned on fairly limited scientific evidence.  The consequence is a greater use of types of pesticides are both less effective and used in greater quantities but more inefficiently to try to replicate the efficacy of newer more effective but now banned ones.  It is believed that the unintended consequence of poses a greater threat to wildlife and food safety.


Disinvestment by pesticide companies is another consequence. There is far less research and development happening into effective new products within the EU, with companies are moving their operations to other parts of the world where their products can find a ready market and their research and development departments can work within less legislatively restricted environments.  Within the EU there is already a much more limited range of effective pesticides, which over time will reduce in efficacy and not be replaced.  This of course will pose a risk to our food security.


The NFU have highlighted to Andrew, that in order for modern farming to produce quality foods in quantities that can support the population, be affordable and grow to meet future need that this will need to change. 


It is ironic because if things do not change we will end up importing increasing quantities of food treated with the chemicals now banned here.


They asked Andrew to support an approach based upon quality scientific research that is based upon risk rather than the current precautionary approach.  


The NFU recently highlighted to Andrew that the ban upon neonicotinoids, for example, which is a seed coating that provides systemic protection to growing plants, has, since they were banned by the EU led to much more spraying of chemicals, which have a detrimental effect on health and wildlife.  At the same time plant quality and harvests have reduced, and this is unsustainable.  


The NFU have also highlighted that sound science and a risk based strategy would avoid the perception that currently seems to be happening in the EU is ‘policy based evidence-making.’ They would rather  go back to sensible ‘evidence based policy making.’


Andrew has undertaken to look into the matters raised and fight the corner for East Midlands farmers wherever possible in Europe.  There will be ore to follow in time.

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