That is the central conclusion of a new EU report into the socio-economic contribution of neonicotinoid seed treatments, published in Brussels today by the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture (HFFA).
Entitled 'The value of Neonicotinoid seed treatment in the European Union: A socio-economic, technological and environmental review', the report concludes that neonicotinoids, used as a seed coating to protect against specific insect pests in key arable crops such as winter wheat, oilseed rape, barley and sugar beet, are crucial for successful, profitable crop production in the UK.
At an EU level, the review suggests that closing the gap in productivity caused by removing neonicotinoids would require an additional 3 million hectares of land, and could cost the EU economy as much as €17 billion (£13.8 billion) over a five-year period.
This report was produced with the support of the European Seed Association, COPA-COGECA and the European Crop Protection Association, in response to calls for neonicotinoid products to be restricted due to concerns over declining bee populations. The crop protection sector has consistently maintained that the issue of bee health is multi-factorial, and cannot be addressed from a single perspective.
Welcoming the report CPA Director of Policy Dr Anne Buckenham said, "This report serves as an important reminder that any knee-jerk action to ban certain insecticidal treatments would have disastrous consequences for crop protection in the UK and across Europe, with serious implications for food prices and availability at a time of mounting concern over global food security and market volatility." "The crop protection industry recognises the critical importance of bees as a pollinator for agriculture and food production. It is vital that the causes of bee health problems are properly understood, and our industry actively supports ongoing research and stewardship programmes aimed at protecting bee health."
"Extensive scientific and field based evidence points to the Varroa mite and parasitic diseases, combined with the problems associated with habitat loss, colony stress and climate change, as the key factors implicated in declining bee populations. Campaigns to blame the nearest chemical must not be allowed to deflect research effort and resource away from these environmental, pest and disease issues which together present the major underlying challenges to bee health."
"A ban on the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments would be unlikely to improve bee health, but would remove a key crop protection technology which, as this report demonstrates, is vital for economically and environmentally sustainable crop production in the UK and across Europe," said Dr Buckenham.