New Study Shows Neonicotinoid Ban has Cost European Oilseed Rape Farming Industry €900 million a Year
Today the results of an ex-post assessment of the economic and environmental costs of the neonicotinoid ban in Europe were presented at a cross-industry event at the European Parliament in Brussels. The report found that the neonicotinoid ban has cost the European Oilseed Rape farming industry €900 million a year, including a yield loss of 4%, which translates to 912,000 tons of oilseed. The study conducted by research consultancy HFFA Research GmbH and commissioned by Bayer and Syngenta, was one of three impact studies presented during the event organised by ECPA (European Crop Protection Association), COPA-COGECA (European Farmers’ Association) and ESA (European Seed Association), and with the support of Richard Ashworth MEP.
Since the European Commission decided to restrict the use of three neonicotinoids in 2013, one of the key open questions has been the magnitude of the impact of the ban on European farming. To contribute to the debate, Bayer and Syngenta commissioned a study with the purpose of identifying the major economic and non-pollinator-related environmental consequences of restricting the use of certain neonicotinoids in the European Union (EU) using the case study of oilseed rape production.
Farmers have relied on neonicotinoids as an effective seed-treatment option for the protection of oilseed rape, which is grown for the production of edible vegetable oils, animal feed and biodiesel. The EU, driven by France, Germany, Poland, UK and Romania, is a leading producer next to Canada, China, India, Australia, and the Ukraine . Oilseed rape is prone to a number of pests such as the cabbage stem flea beetle, for which only few management options exist. The loss of neonicotinoid-crop treatment options has thus been of particular importance for oilseed rape farming and today we see farmers making a conscious choice to decrease the area of OSR they plant as a result of not having the proper tools to defend their crops.
Significant economic and environmental impacts in Europe and worldwide
The study identified three base impacts of the ban on European oilseed rape farming:
- a negative yield impact of 4% resulting in 912,000 tons of missing harvest;
- an average of 6.3% of harvest quality losses;
- an average of 0.73 additional foliar applications per hectare of cultivated oilseed rape.
These impacts translate into almost €350 million market revenue losses, more than €50 million revenue losses due to lower quality, close to €120 million additional production costs, and well above €360 million in upstream and downstream industries. In total, the neonicotinoid ban has cost the European oilseed rape farming industry almost €900 million a year.
The study also finds that the ban has significant global environmental impacts: Global demand holding constant, the missing harvest in the EU is produced elsewhere. Since global land productivity will not rise as a direct consequence of the ban, such a production increase requires additional land resources. Shifting oilseed rape production outside of the EU is estimated to require an additional 533,000 hectares of land outside Europe, cause 80.2 million tons of CO2 emissions, 1.3 billion m³ of additional water consumption, and lead to biodiversity losses related to the conversion of grassland and natural habitats rich in species into arable land.
Furthermore, confronted with a ban of one of the most effective tools in the insecticide-toolbox, farmers were forced to switch to other, more costly management solutions to address pest pressure despite their resistance management limitations. A common approach was to spray pyrethroids, which has caused direct effects in Europe at farm-level. The additional foliar insecticide applications resulted in additional Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions of an estimated equivalent of 0.03 million tons of CO2, 1.4 million m3 of additional water use annually and an increase in production costs of approximately €120 million.
Dr. Steffen Noleppa from HFFA Research GmbH who led this study comments, “Our meta-analysis reviewed the findings of 13 clusters of scientific studies and academic papers on the mainly economic impacts of the ban and then these results were stress-tested and synthesized. Based on this data we quantified the EU-wide economic and environmental effects, combining the findings of individual studies with additional expert opinions. With this comprehensive analysis, it is clear that the ban has not only negatively impacted the European oilseed farming industry, but it has had huge implications for the environment.”
The results of the study show that the impacts of the European Commission’s decision to restrict the application of three neonicotinoids in the EU go beyond economic costs but also have considerable impacts on the environment. They indicate the importance for farmers to have more than one solution to fight certain pests in order to avoid resistance development. Speaking at the event Graeme Taylor, Director Public Affairs for ECPA said: “This new report by HFFA Research, along a number of other other studies recently published, should send a very clear message to the European Commission that this ban is having a significant impact on Europe’s farmers. One has to question Europe’s commitment to sustainable agriculture when the tools farmers need to provide sufficient, safe and affordable food continue to be taken away from them.”
Download the infographic: Neonicotinoid ban hits farmers and environment
Correction 13.01.2017: The original article contained the erroneous statement "In fact this pest did was not observed on crops when farmers had access to neonicotinoids." Complete with typo, this line escaped fact-checking and draft-review, unfortunately making it to the final edit.