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New fears about EC pesticide bans

UP to 90 per cent of pesticides currently available to EU farmers could be banned under European Commission plans to widen its approach to protecting bees from agrochemicals, according to agri-business Syngenta. The company was not impressed when three neonicotinoid seed treatments, including its own Cruiser oil seed rape product, were suspended for two years by the European Commission earlier this year.

Syngenta, along with Bayer, is challenging the suspension in the EU courts. The Commission imposed the ban following a vote by member states which failed to reach the required qualified majority on the basis of a risk assessment on the impact on bee health of the three seed treatments by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Syngenta’s European regional director Jon Parr said: “The process is fundamentally flawed and it could be about to be repeated in relation to a number of other products.”

EFSA recently published a document issuing guidance on the “risk assessment of plant protection products on bees”.

Intended for policy makers in the context of the ongoing EU review of plant protection products, it suggests a tiered risk assessment scheme “to ensure the appropriate level of protection is achieved”.

 Products will be assessed under a “simple and cost-effective first tier to more complex higher tier studies under field conditions”.

The document states: “Pesticides have often been considered one of the factors contributing to the decline of some insect pollinator species.”

It also highlights concerns at the “appropriateness” of current risk assessment schemes.

Mr Parr said he feared the assessment could lead to many more products being removed “without justification”.

He said: “If they go about it in the same way they have gone about the neonicotinoid issue then, without any exaggeration, you could lose 80 to 90 per cent of the available insecticides.”

Syngenta estimates that suspension of its Cruiser product will cost it £18-£31m in Europe.

It said there were likely to be shortages of the product this autumn as it seeks to restrict production to levels that minimise wastage once the ban comes in.

In views shared by the UK Government, Mr Parr claimed EFSA’s findings in its neonicotinoid study leaned too heavily on laboratory studies in which bees were exposed to artificially high doses of chemicals.

Mr Parr said: “An awful lot of good field data that showed the chemicals pose little risk to bees at the doses used in the field was ignored.”

As spokesman for the European Commission’s health directorate said: “The Commission is not going to respond to new claims by the industry.

“The decision taken earlier this year was based on studies from EFSA which raised some serious concerns. If Syngenta has some scientific evidence, they’re perfectly entitled to submit it to EFSA.”

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