DEFRA applies the precautionary principle in relation to pesticides. We therefore supported a ban in 2018 on the use of neonicotinoids to treat crops. Given what the current science tells us about these pesticides, they can be authorised for use only on an emergency basis if very specific circumstances are met and with the appropriate environmental safeguards.
Farmers in the east of England very much welcome the Secretary of State’s dispensation for the use of neonics in treating aphids. What I want from the Secretary of State is some reassurance for the farmers in the east of England that, until a suitable alternative to neonics that is evidence based is available, he will continue to use the dispensation so that we can properly support our farmers to grow crops and protect them from aphids.
As I said, these are emergency authorisations that we grant on an annual basis. In the case of this application for the current year, we added additional conditions to those that have been proposed by the applicant—in particular, adding another 10 months to the period before a flowering crop could be sown. Also, in this case, the threshold for pests was not met and was therefore not needed, but, of course, if there is an application in a future year, we will look at that again.