It is my understanding that the use of such insecticides has been approved by DEFRA for emergency usage under powers governed by former EU laws which the UK has now transferred into domestic legislation. Under this framework, the Environment Secretary has the ability to grant their use in very specific and exceptional instances after the case has been made by the Health and Safety Executive, UK Expert Committee on Pesticides and the Department’s Chief Scientific Officer. The use of such seed treatments has been used in ten EU countries and our departure from the EU has not materially changed this situation or the UK’s ability to apply such measures within a framework still identical to that of EU member states.
Authorisation can only be granted if the following conditions are met:
*the authorisation appears necessary because of a danger which cannot be contained by any other reasonable means (the case for need)
*use of the product will be limited and controlled
*there are special circumstances
Upon clarification of this case specifically, the decision to grant the emergency authorisation was taken after the forecast for the sugar beet harvest is 25% lower than expected, and the use of such treatments is strictly time-limited whilst alternative solutions are identified and implemented. As such, the authorisation which has been granted is only for the 2021 harvest to protect levels of sugar beet output. The specific impact on bees was assessed and since sugar beet is a non-flowering crop, the overall impact on bees is highly limited. Furthermore, the granting of the application requires the minimisation of flowering weeds. This will reduce the numbers of bees in the area, and the planting of flowering crops on the same land the product has been applied has been prohibited for at least 22 months to ensure the risk of contaminated soil has subsided. This is based on independent assessments that the concentrations of toxic residue deteriorates over time.
I do appreciate you concern on this matter, as vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Environment, I am keen to protect our environment both locally, and nationally. I will write to the Secretary of State to urge that the use of such products remains extremely limited and the importance of finding solutions quickly is reflected in the Government’s plans for the sustainable use of pesticides.