British Sugar and the National Farmers Union had been given authorisation last year for emergency use, within strict control limits, because disease and pests on non-flowering sugar beet crops could not be controlled by any other reasonable means.
However, British Sugar has assured me that “Following a very cold January and February, the independent Rothamsted model is predicting very low levels of Virus Yellows in the crop for 2021. With a prediction of 8.37% of the crop being affected by the virus by the end of August, the pre-determined threshold of 9% which we put in place has not been met and we will not be treating sugar beet seed with the neonicotinoid seed treatment Cruiser SB this year”.
This is very welcome news. I have received dozens of letters from constituents worried that the use of this pesticide would become permanent. I am pleased to be able to reiterate that it was for emergency use only and for a strictly time limited period and will not be repeated again this year. The use of pesticides is strictly regulated and the government is committed to maintaining standards of protection now that we have left the EU.
Seed will be distributed to all sugar beet growers without the treatment and sowing of this year’s crop will take place over the next month. Growers will also now have flexibility on follow-on crops as the rules around flowering crops in the same field are no longer required. British Sugar says it is committed to continuing to work to progress plans to tackle Virus Yellows without the need for neonicotinoids in the longer-term.