Argentina is the only non-European case study site included in SPRINT. We included Argentina in our project because it is the main exporter of soy for animal feed in Europe. In addition, this allows us to compare our findings in Europe against those in South America, where pesticides are often applied more frequently and in greater volumes. Argentina, our chosen case study, is the third biggest pesticide user in the world, with only China and the US using more. In addition, several of the pesticides used in Argentina are no longer approved for use across the EU, so this case study will provide insights into the risks of imported chemicals. This article provides an overview of farming in Argentina before examining the extent of pesticide reliance and the potential risks of current usage.

 

On Friday 8th January, the UK government decided to allow the use of a neonicotinoid-based pesticide, thiamethoxam in emergencies. They had previously pledged to maintain a ban on this chemical in line with the EU’s stance towards neonicotinoids.

The UK is not the only country to make this decision, with 11 others also permitting the use of this pesticide in emergencies. These countries include Belgium, Denmark and Spain. These are not the first European countries to lift the ban of thiamethoxam on sugar beet fields; France has already lifted their ban on neonicotinoids.

The news headlines and Twitter uproar resulting from this decision suggests that the public are unhappy with this decision.

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This disapproval appears to derive largely from the knowledge that these pesticides are harmful to bees. There are, however, further complexities which have been largely unnoticed or ignored by these commentators, both in support of and against this decision. This article attempts to unravel some of these complexities.

 

What does ‘emergency’ use mean?

Emergency use means that the pesticide may only be used where it is indispensable for protecting the crop. Even when it is applied, it will be done in a limited and controlled way, informed by an independent scientific forecast which will prove it is needed. In this case, Defra has claimed that the pesticide will only be allowed on sugar beet as it is non-flowering. There will also be controls to minimise risks to pollinators.

 

Why are people upset about the re-authorisation of thiamethoxam?

Those who disagree with the use of thiamethoxam mostly refer to the impacts it has on insects, and water quality. Matt Shardlow of Buglife, an environmental charity, argues ‘nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban neonics from use on sugar beet in 2018. They will still harm the environment’. Several studies have found that thiamethoxam has severe impacts on bees. Research has found that it can weaken the immune systems of bees, harm the development of their brains, and impair their flight.  Some commentators have also argued that instead of growing crops prone to disease, farmers should instead focus on those already well adapted to the environment.

 

 

SPRINT recently attended a fascinating talk at the Oxford Real Farming Conference. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh shared their findings surrounding why pesticides may, paradoxically, benefit crop pests. The research was born from the work by a French agronomist, Francis Chaboussou. 

What are ‘plant protection products’?

The term ‘plant protection product’ refers to ‘pesticides’. These chemicals are used by farmers, gardeners and foresters to protect crops and increase their yields. Pesticides contain active ingredients such as toxic chemicals, plant extracts, pheromones, micro-organisms or viruses for controlling unwanted ‘pests’.  These ‘pests’ can include insects (insecticides), fungi (fungicides) or plants (herbicides).   

Due to the risks associated with PPPs, European regulations[1] place limits on how they are used. These regulations are based on the risks to human and environmental health associated with the active ingredients of PPPs.

 

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