Emergency authorisations for pesticides are only granted in exceptional circumstances where diseases or pests cannot be controlled by any other reasonable means. Emerging sugar beet seedlings are vulnerable to predation by aphids, which have the potential to spread Beet Yellows Virus. The 2020 sugar beet yields were severely affected and are forecast to be down by 20-25 per cent on previous years.
Due to this, the Government granted authorisation for the emergency use of Cruiser SB on the 2021 sugar beet crop in England. The authorisation was granted with strict conditions attached, including a reduced application rate as well as a prohibition on any flowering crop being planted in the same field where the product has been used within 22 months of sugar beet, and a prohibition on oilseed rape being planted within 32 months of sugar beet.
Importantly, the authorisation only allowed the product to be used if a scientific forecast indicated that there was likely to be a significant problem with aphids. As the cold weather experienced in January and February meant that the forecast was for a lower level of pest pressures, the seed treatment will not be used this year. The emergency authorisation required for a neonicotinoid on sugar beet is a great example of the precautionary approach in action.
Emergency authorisations are used by countries across Europe. Ten EU countries including Belgium, Denmark and Spain have granted emergency authorisations for neonicotinoid seed treatments since 2018. Furthermore, the UK’s approach to the use of emergency authorisations has not changed as a result of the UK’s exit from the EU.
The UK is a world leader in developing greener farming practices and upholds the highest standards of environmental and health protection. The Government is developing the draft National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides which sets out the ambition to further minimise the risks and impacts of pesticides to human health and the environment. Ministers are equally committed to protecting pollinators, and the National Pollinator Strategy sets out how the Government, conservation groups, farmers, beekeepers and researchers can work together to improve the status of pollinating insect species in England.