Pesticide regulations could threaten cereal yields

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European parliament European union

UK industry bodies are calling for an analysis on the effects of proposed pesticide regulation amendments amid concerns that cereal yields could be cut by 30 per cent.

The current regulation governing pesticide approval, directive 91/414/EEC, is essentially risk-based. However, the European Commission established proposals in July 2006 to introduce cut-off criteria based on whether the active ingredients are considered hazardous or not.

In the European Parliament’s first reading of the amendments last month, even more stringent criteria were established.

Reports by the UK government’s Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) and independent environmental consultants ADAS found there could be significant losses to the active substances available for use in agriculture and horticulture should the proposals become law, which in turn could affect production yields.

Given that the world is currently facing grain shortages and soaring prices, the possible effects have caused concern in the agricultural industry.

Groups such as the National Association of British and Irish Millers (NABIM), the Crop Protection Association, and the UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) have therefore called on the Commission to carry out its own full impact assessment to ensure the European Parliament can make an informed decision on the regulation in the autumn.

“Fresh vegetables would be most severely affected by the changes, closely followed by cereals,”​ Martin Savage, trade policy manager at NABIM, told

“Basically, the changes could lead to lower production goods that are of lower quality.”

Effects on availability

The PSD said the Commission’s proposals could remove up to 15 per cent of the 300 assessed substances currently used in European agriculture, limiting fungicide availability as suitable alternatives have not been found, and resulting in between 20 and 30 per cent yield losses for cereals.

The ADAS report found that, should the European Parliament’s suggestions also be carried through, production for some goods could be reduced by up to 45 per cent. Additionally, the carbon footprint for the production of wheat and potatoes could be increased by between 25 per cent and over 100 per cent.

Savage said: “Fungicides containing Triazole and Strobilurin could be banned if because they are difficult to assess, and there is no replacement for these to protect against late season diseases.”

He added: “We cannot understand why, at a time of high prices and food shortages, sufficient assessments have not been carried out or why other countries have not realised the seriousness of the situation.”

This food crisis has been attributed to the diverting of grains for use in biofuels, poor harvests, increasing population and competition from emerging markets, and the increasing cost of oil, which has at times reached $130 per barrel.

So far, the only member state to have carried out its own assessment is the UK. The Republic of Ireland and Poland are the only other two countries against the amendments.

Imports into the UK could also be affected, said Savage, as cereals and fresh produce coming into the EU would also be subject to the new stricter criteria, but it would be hard to establish what pesticides were used in the short term.

According to Anne Buckenham, director of policy at the Crop Protection Association, the European Commission is currently claiming that very few of the substances currently used in pesticides will be removed from the market as a result of the regulations.

It is this discrepancy that is spurring UK groups to call for the Commission to carry out an impact assessment before any decisions are made at a European level.

The European Parliament is set to vote on the regulation in September so the amendments would come into place before the end of the year.

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