A recent report by the farm consultants Andersons assessed that 40 active substances are deemed likely to be lost or restricted in the next few years as a result of the cumulative impact of European regulation.
This would have serious implications for the control of weeds, disease and pests in UK crops and subsequently on agricultural productivity. Not only would it become extremely hard to control certain pests and diseases, but reduced availability means increasing reliance on a smaller number of crop protection products. This in turn leads to resistance developing which makes those remaining products less and less effective, which can conversely result in greater use. Retaining a broad armoury of crop protection products is therefore a prudent approach to supporting our agricultural productivity.
According to the Andersons report the impacts of the loss or restriction of these plant protection products (PPPs) include:
- Little, or no, domestic production of some ‘iconic’ British foods such as frozen peas, apples and fresh carrots.
- The gross value added (GVA) of UK agriculture will fall by about £1.6bn per annum. This represents a drop of 20% on the five-year average from 2009-2013.
- UK farming profit (total income from farming) drops by £1.73bn in monetary terms, but this equates to a higher proportion of the overall profit – a 36% drop from current levels.
- The overall output of food from UK farming and horticulture would decline, with the UK becoming more reliant on food imports, often produced using PPPs banned in the UK and EU.
- Job losses of between 35,000 and 40,000 in food processing and manufacturing, on top of between 3500 to 4000 losses in the agri-supply industry.
The UK is a major centre of research and development for PPPs. However, the uncertainty of EU regulation discourages long term investment by pesticide manufacturers in Europe. This stifles innovation and has led to a reduction in the share of global crop protection R&D investment in products targeted at the EU market from 33.3% in the 1980s to 7.7% today.
The crop protection industry recognises the need for regulation, but it must be effective and focussed on risk management rather than risk avoidance. We expect the government to place innovation at the heart of its food and farming strategy, but also to demonstrate a progressive and enlightened leadership among other member states in Europe by taking a proportional approach to risk – one that both protects consumers and the environment while incentivising innovation.
The full Andersons report is available below: