Martin Gruss

Spotlight on Seed-Applied Neonicotinoids

Only recently, somebody who knew I worked for Bayer asked me about the EU ban on “those insecticides that harm bees”, as he said. He’d read a lot in the press and wanted to hear my side of the story.

Since the European Commission imposed a ban on three neonicotinoid insecticides at the end of 2013, it’s been possible to put the costs and benefits of the ban into perspective. The facts show that it has brought considerable costs for European farmers and had significant environmental implications. A recently published HFFA Research Paper analyzing the impact on oilseed rape (OSR) farming of the neonicotinoid ban in Europe revealed significant economic and environmental impacts. The ban has cost European OSR farmers €350 million in lost revenue, €50 million due to lower quality, and €120 million in additional production costs. What’s more, additional foliar insecticide applications employed instead of seed-applied neonicotinoids have added an estimated 0.03 million tons CO equivalents of greenhouse gas emissions and 1.4 million m3 of water annually. Switching OSR production outside the EU to meet the global demand is having a major environmental impact, e.g. biodiversity losses equivalent to the slashing and burning of 333,000 hectares of Indonesian rainforest.

Farmers need to protect their OSR from pests such as the cabbage stem flea beetle, which can destroy an entire crop. Since the ban, they have repeatedly applied to their respective government for help, and numerous Member States – eight in 2016 alone – have granted emergency authorizations for neonicotinoids in numerous crops such as oilseed rape, winter wheat and barley, corn and sunflower in order to support their farmers in dealing with pest pressure.

Martin Gruss
Martin Gruss
Martin Gruss,
Global Head SeedGrowth at Bayer Division Crop Science
Farmers need to protect their oilseed rape from pests such as the cabbage stem flea beetle.

The EU ban on neonicotinoids was imposed to protect bees, but so far there’ve been no provably positive benefits for bees or other pollinators. That is the sad conclusion we have to draw right now. Interestingly enough, no country outside the EU has followed the EU’s ban and a recent assessment by the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency confirmed the safety for pollinators as well as the value of neonicotinoid insecticides. At Bayer we know and can show that the responsible use of crop protection products within an integrated pest management program is a far more effective means of protecting all pollinators from potential risks.

By the time I’d explained everything, my colleague realized that the issues to do with bees are more complex and that banning insecticides can be detrimental to yield and food security. In my next blog post on neonicotinoids I’ll be taking a closer look at the negative impact of the ban on the EU farming community.

If you want to learn more about SeedGrowth – and seed-applied neonicotinoids – click here.

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