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Oilseed Rape: Pests

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL3598, tabled on 28 April 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of any evidence that unrestrained depredation by cabbage stem flea beetle of oil seed rape prevents the growth of that crop; and what plans they have to review the ban on neonicotinoids following any such assessment.

Answered on

13 May 2020

Oilseed rape is a valuable crop for farmers and there is a greater risk of crop loss due to cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) since the restrictions on neonicotinoids came into force in 2014. Some growers have been heavily affected while others have not experienced similar problems. Defra has monitored the incidence of CSFB on untreated oilseed rape through the Crop Pest and Disease Survey. In autumn 2019, average numbers of CSFB were higher than levels before the ban on use of neonicotinoid insecticides. Out of 82 sites assessed, however, only eight had levels that exceeded the recommended threshold for spray application. Six of these eight sites were in the East of England.

The Government supports restrictions on neonicotinoids because the clear advice from scientific experts is that these seed treatments should not be used on flowering crops, such as oilseed rape. There is clear evidence on the toxicity of neonicotinoids to bees and their persistence in the environment. We are not prepared to put our pollinator populations at risk and so we will maintain the current restrictions on use of the three neonicotinoids when the transition period ends. We will only take a different position if the scientific evidence changes.

The Government supports a major, long-term research platform for Crop Genetic Improvement. This includes OREGIN, which is a dedicated programme on oilseed rape breeding to improve the resource use efficiency, sustainability and resilience of the crop. The research is carried out in close partnership with growers and breeders and determines beneficial traits to be included in breeding programmes to offer improved resistance to priority pests and diseases. The work is helping to reduce reliance on agrochemical inputs and also improve the overall resilience of crops.