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Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 112695, tabled on 26 January 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of supporting further investment in the development of sustainable alternatives to neonicotinoids, in order to avoid their use in emergency authorisations in circumstances where diseases or pests cannot be controlled by other reasonable means.

Answered on

31 January 2022

Three neonicotinoids including the one covered by the sugar beet emergency authorisation, were banned by the EU in 2018, a decision the Government supported and so we have already moved decisively away from their use. British sugar is already developing alternative approaches to neonicotinoid seed treatments. It has stated that it may make applications for emergency authorisations for neonicotinoid seed treatments until 2023, by which time it intends to have developed alternative approaches. This includes the development of resistant plant varieties, measures to improve seed germination and new practices for growers.

Defra investment is not focused on the development of sustainable alternatives to specific pesticides such as neonicotinoids. The department has funded important research into other areas that will ensure pesticides can be used sustainably in the future.

We have funded research into the exposure of honeybees to pesticides, both over time and at national scale, through chemical analysis of pesticide residues found in honey samples. Using genetic techniques, such as DNA metabarcoding, this research can assess the plants foraged by exposed bees and highlight common pesticide exposure routes for this key pollinator species. We expect the results of this work to be published in the coming months.

We are also funding research exploring how we could further develop our monitoring to better understand the effects, and the impacts, of pesticides on pollinators, such as expanding residue assessments to include wild pollinator species of bumblebees and solitary bees.

Finally, in 2019 Defra commissioned the report 'Review of Evidence on Integrated Pest Management', which was published in 2020. This report assessed several themes including the effectiveness of IPM measures for reducing pesticide use, what combinations of IPM measures are most beneficial, and barriers and enablers to the uptake of IPM approaches. Research such as this will help Defra to meet its commitment to increase the uptake of Integrated Pest Management and sustainable crop protection, and therefore reduce any future reliance of emergency authorisation applications for neonicotinoids.

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