The National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the Crop Protection Association (CPA) and the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) have commissioned farm business consultants Andersons to produce an independent report to look at the economic impact of crop protection technologies on UK agriculture and the wider economy.

The Andersons’ report has identified 40 active substances deemed likely to be lost or restricted in use including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and molluscicides. This would affect the control of weeds, disease, and pests in key UK crops, relying on a smaller number of pesticides and resulting in build-up of resistance. It could also result in decreases in yields in therange of 4-50% in the crops evaluated in the study. According to the report, this could lead to little, or no, domestic production of some British foods, such as frozen peas, apples and fresh carrots, and an overall drop of income from UK agriculture of around £1.7bn per annum, equating to a 36% drop in profitability from current levels.

Scientists at the James Hutton Institute have cast doubt on the wisdom of the European Union’s aim to restrict the use of these pesticides. According to Professor Ian Toth, Controlling Weeds, Pests and Diseases Research Theme Leader at the James Hutton Institute, seeking to ban pesticides based on ‘hazard’ rather than ‘risk’ means that a chemical would be banned even if it was used at concentrations much lower than those deemed to be hazardous. ‘We currently import just under 50% of our food into the UK and crop yield reductions due to reduced use of pesticides will almost certainly increase that reliance in future. Ironically, many of the crops that we import from countries outside the EU will have been produced using the very chemicals the EU has targeted for reduction,’ said Professor Toth. The Institute is working to find viable alternatives to the pesticides earmarked for reduction, such as better targeting of chemical applications, resistant crops and biocontrol through integrated pest management.