[Valerie Vaz in the Chair] — Neonicotinoids on Crops

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 6:01 pm on 7th December 2015.

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Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:01 pm, 7th December 2015

My general experience of these things is that the more science we have, the more evidence gaps get identified, so we never actually have a perfect picture and all we can ever do is make the best judgment we can with the science that we have. However, I do believe that much of the work that is being done—for instance, by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology—will mean a big increase and big improvement in our understanding of neonicotinoids in the future. Some of the work that we are commissioning as part of our national pollinator strategy will also assist in that process.

I want to turn now to the specific emergency authorisations in relation to the three neonicotinoids. We had two applications: one for Cruiser and one for Modesto; they were the products in question. The first application from the National Farmers Union asked for an authorisation covering 79% of the area of England. The conclusion, which was published, of the Expert Committee on Pesticides was that although it acknowledged that there was a problem with cabbage stem flea beetle in particular that could not be controlled by other means, it believed that an authorisation covering 79% of the country did not satisfy the requirement of its being strictly confined and restricted. For that reason, it recommended refusal of the first application. I accepted that: I refused the first application.

There was subsequently a second application from the NFU, bringing much more detailed evidence from agronomists of the impact on the ground of cabbage stem flea beetle in particular, county by county. On the basis of that, it put in an application for use over 5% of the English area, which roughly represented the area of Suffolk, which had suffered particularly badly. The Expert Committee on Pesticides assessed that second application and concluded that it satisfied all the requirements, so it recommended that we approve that emergency authorisation and that is what we did.