Banning neonicotinoids could cost EU economy €4.5bn
A BAN on neonicotinoid seed treatments could reduce yields of some key crops by 20 per cent and cost the EU economy up to €4.5 billion a year, a major report has concluded.
A decision to remove the pesticide products, which have been linked to a decline in honey bee populations, could also dramatically results in more than a million job losses and push up the price of food, the report published on Tuesday suggests.
A review of the socio-economic value of neonicotinoids has been published ahead of the publication of a long-awaited risk assessment on the chemicals by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The review, published by EU think tank the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture, was commissioned by Bayer Crop Sciences and Syngenta with support of the European Seed Association, EU farming body Copa-Cogeca and the European Crop Protection Association. It found, at the EU level, that:
· Neonicotinoids contribute over £1.6 bn (€2bn) annually to commodity crop revenues and reduce production costs by £800 million (approx €1bn) across the EU compared to alternatives.
· The annual economic benefit of the pesticides to the grower, when compared to not using pesticides at all, is over £3.2bn (€4bn)
· The overall cost could be as high as €4.5 billion and over a five-year period, EU wealth could erode by up to £13.8bn (€17bn), putting the jobs of over a million people engaged in arable production across the EU at risk.
· At least 50,000 farm jobs could be lost across the across the EU.
· The productivity gap could only be closed by bringing into production an additional 3 million hectares of land outside of Europe at a cost of 600m tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
If UK farmers no longer had access to neonicotinoid technology, the report concludes that:
· Yields of some crops decline by up to 20 per cent in difficult years like 2012, which could make winter wheat an unprofitable crop for many UK farmers and unfeasible in high-pest pressure areas.
· A loss of up to £630 million (€782m) each year to the UK economy
· Threats to 1,300 jobs that have been directly created in the UK by neonicotinoids, and income loss for a further 15,000 growers.
In addition, world market prices for crop commodities could increase by up to 2 per cent if neonicotinoids were suspended across the EU.
The review was based on an analysis of the seed treatment in 10 EU countries - Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Italy, Spain, France, the UK and the Netherlands) - and six focus crops –corn (maize), sugar beet, oilseed rape, wheat, barley and sunflower.
It includes the example of Germany where oilseed rape growers rely highly on the technology to remain competitive in the global market, and Spain, where sunflower growers achieve better yields through earlier planting with the help of the chemicals.
Steffen Noleppa, from agripol, one of the report’s authors, said: “This report shows that the loss of neonicotinoid seed treatment would seriously damage sustainable food production in Europe. Our report found that the consequence of such a ban for wider society could include lower crop yields, leading to higher commodity prices.”
Neonicotinoids were banned in France last year, after research suggested that low levels of the pesticides can have significant effects on bee colonies.
The research findings were hotly disputed and, in the summer, the European Commission asked EFSA to provide an ‘in-depth review of the effects of the neonicotinoid active substances’, paying ‘particular attention to acute and chronic effects on bee colony survival and development’. EFSA’s report, which could underpin EU policy on the chemicals, is due to be published later this week.
What are Neonicotinoids?
Neonicotinoids are considered to be one of the most advanced forms of crop protection. They are used for production of winter wheat, oilseed rape (OSR), barley and sugar beet in the UK, and for corn (maize), sunflowers and vegetable crops across the EU.
The chemical ingredient is applied to the seed as a coating prior to planting to protect against crop pests. They are used on a range of crops. The active substances are thiamethoxam, clothianidin, imidacloprid, acetamiprid and thiacloprid.
Alister Driver, Farmers Guardian online here
Last Updated (Monday, 21 January 2013 11:09)
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