Food prices would rocket if pesticides banned

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food production Value added Food Agriculture

Pesticides: vital tool or threat to food security and the environment?
Pesticides: vital tool or threat to food security and the environment?
Food prices would rocket if pesticides were banned or their use severely restricted, according to the National Farmers Union (NFU); a claim hotly disputed by environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth (FoE).

The supply and quality of British staple foods fresh carrots, frozen peas and apples would be severely disrupted, sending prices rocketing, claimed the NFU, after the publication of a report it commissioned from farm business consultancy Andersons.

The report warned up to 40 active chemicals were likely to be lost or restricted in their use if EU bureacrats enforced bans or stricter controls. The at risk list includes: 10 insecticides, 12 fungicides, 16 herbicides and two molluscicides. That would represent a 20% fall in the five-year average from 2009–2013.

Nose dive by £1.6bn a year

Denied active ingredients to control weeds, diseases and pests in key UK crops, the gross value added of UK agriculture and horticulture would nose dive by £1.6bn a year.

Banning the active ingredients would also cost up to 44,000 jobs in agricultural wholesale, the supply chain and the wider food and drink industry, claimed the researchers. In addition, farming profit would drop by 36% from its current levels, sparking a large readjustment in the farming industry.

NFU vice president Guy Smith said: “It is absolutely essential that farmers have regulation that is risk-based and that it follows sound science to ensure the farming sector keeps growing and contributing to the £97bn UK food and drink industry.

“For this to happen we need government at both UK and EU level to put British food production at the heart of policy-making across all government departments.”

The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), which co-sponsored the report, warned of the risks of ignoring science when making policy and regulatory decisions. AIC strategy group member David Hutchinson said: “Any crop protection product should be assessed in the wider context of a food production strategy, so that agronomists have at their disposal both cultural controls and a range of chemistry to help farmers and growers sustain UK food production.

Competitive disadvantage

“A big concern is that the current EU policy making and regulatory systems are heavily influenced by political considerations and sound science often comes second in assessing agricultural technologies – old and new. In the meantime farming and the wider economy of our food industry will continue to suffer and be placed at an ever increasing competitive disadvantage to those countries outside the EU.”   

But FoE slammed the report as “dangerously misleading”.​ FoE nature campaigner Paul de Zylva said: “The report lacks any credible, independent and peer reviewed science.

“Instead of attacking regulations in place to protect our health and wildlife, we should all focus on finding alternatives to chemicals. The evidence is overwhelming that intensive use of chemicals is harming bees and other wildlife and the quality of our water and soils. That’s the real threat to our food security.”

Some neonicotinoid chemicals are currently banned because top British and European scientists found they pose a high acute risk to bees, she said. “That’s the kind of good evidence-based science the NFU and others should be backing.”

Meanwhile, the NFU claims British farmers are dedicated to protecting the environment, as the following video reveals.

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