11-06-2014 08:48 AM | Arable, Cereal, Crops, News

UK food production ‘flat lining’ as EU over-regulation continues



UK food production ‘flat lining’ as EU over-regulation continues
Crop production in the UK will be sent into decline if British farmers continue to lose access to key materials, according to the NFU.

"The UK's crop production toolbox is becoming worryingly depleted at a time when we need to be producing more crops, not less" the union said as it launched its new report.

The campaign -‘Healthy Harvest: safeguarding the crop protection toolbox’, which is being launched at Cereals 2014 - aims to safeguard the crop protection tools that are essential to sustaining current levels of agricultural productivity. Feeding a growing global population relies on these tools, yet they are at risk of being taken away by over-precautionary regulation.

Statistics show that since 2001 half of pesticides have been lost and over the lifetime of the newly elected EU Parliament another half could be banned through what is seen as overzealous regulation not properly backed up with sound science.

NFU Vice President Guy Smith, leading on the campaign, said: “The UK is fast becoming an over-regulated environment for British farmers who are losing their home markets to foreign farmers who have better access to more effective means of crop production.

“At a time when leading scientists are warning that within a generation the world could be facing a ‘perfect storm’ of food shortages, this is not time to be taking away the tools our farmers need to produce disease free, high yielding crops.

“British farmers need to be able to use the same, safe technology as their competitors if we are to have a productive agriculture producing healthy harvests.”

The Crop Protection Association (CPA) and Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) have highlighted how important their new joint campaign with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) will be to British farmers if they are to rise to the challenges, and opportunities, of growing global demand for food.

Nick von Westenholz, CEO of the CPA, said: “I am delighted the industry is coming together to launch this initiative. There’s no doubt that UK farmers are facing a tipping point. The tools they need to protect yields and play their part in feeding a growing global population are being relentlessly taken away from them. It’s right that products such as pesticides are regulated to ensure they’re safe for use, but we’re now subject to a system which is enormously over-precautionary, and which seems to be oblivious to the hugely important role crop protection products play in food production.

“Every second we lose an area of global farmland the size of a football field while two more people are added to the world’s population. That should be a signal to European policy-makers to foster innovation in agriculture so that our farmers can increase their productivity sustainably – but sadly it’s one that is being ignored. It is crucial that farmers, industry and UK politicians make the case to European policy-makers to ensure food and farming policy is based on sound science, fosters innovation and protects our farmers' competitiveness. Safeguarding our crop protection toolbox is absolutely central to that.”

Hazel Doonan, Head of Crop Protection and Agronomy, at the AIC said: “This campaign stems from recognising the threat that increasingly stringent regulation places on crop protection products, often without sound scientific basis for the decisions.

“Agronomists are being increasingly challenged by their clients to improve farm output whilst protecting the environment. A diminishing number of plant protection products to select from to control significant weeds, pests and diseases means increased pressure on remaining actives where chemical control measures are judged to be necessary. It would be a counterproductive situation where produce is being imported to the UK due simply to lack of an effective range of chemical control measures when we have skilled agronomists, farmers and the right climate to do this successfully for ourselves.”

The Healthy Harvest campaign will dovetail with a wider project, being undertaken by AIC to look at the cumulative effects of the various threats to UK agricultural production in both the crop production and livestock sectors.

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