THE AUSTRALIAN cropping sector has expressed disappointment the European Union (EU) has decided to ban all outdoor usage of neo-nicotinoid insecticides as of the end of the year.
The controversial chemical compound, which is the active ingredient in some of the world’s most used insecticides, is being banned because of the damage it causes to bee populations.
Previously, the products had been banned for use on flowering crops, such as rapeseed / canola, but following findings from the EU’s science arm EFSA, that ban has been widened to all outdoor usage.
As of the end of the year neo-nic based insecticides will only be able to be used in Europe in closed greenhouses.
The Australian grains sector is now seeking clarity on what the ban will mean for EU imports and whether there will be any changes to maximum residue limits (MRLs) for trace levels of neo-nicotinoid products.
Even should there be zero tolerance it is not expected it will be a major obstacle for the Australian industry as neo-nicotinoid products are mainly used as seed treatments.
In spite of it being unlikely to be a decision that directly impacts the Aussie grains sector, Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) executive officer Nick Goddard said it set a worrying precedent.
“We don’t feel all the evidence regarding the safety of the compound has been fully considered,” Mr Goddard said.
In Australia, canola is the broadacre crop that relies on the use of neo-nicotinoids the most, primarily as a seed treatment to prevent the crop being damaged by pests such as red-legged earth mite (RLEM) at emergence.
Mr Goddard’s comments come despite the fact the ban could be construed as being positive for Australian canola producers.
Some reports have suggested the yield penalty for EU canola producers due to not being able to use neo-nic insecticides could be as much as 15pc.
The EU is one of the world’s largest producers of rapeseed / canola.
However, the Aussie industry is concerned there will be worldwide kickback against the use of neo-nicotinoids as a result of the EU ban.
As with last year’s near-ban of the herbicide glyphosate, there has been a strong consumer push to banning neo-nicotinoids.
Almost five million people signed a petition from campaign group Avaaz calling for an end to the use of neo-nic products.
Australian plant science peak body CropLife spoke out against the decision.
“Agricultural chemical regulatory decisions made on political and not scientific grounds, puts an unnecessary considerable strain on farmers and the environment as older, less effective agricultural chemicals are used instead,” said CropLife Australia chief executive Matthew Cossey.
He said in spite of the use of neo-nicotinoid insecticides, Australia had the healthiest bee populations in the world.
“The latest beekeeping industry figures show a strong and thriving sector, yet we hear activists using terms such as “beepocalypse”, in an attempt to frighten regulators into banning the use of neonicotinoids in Australian farming.”