Tighter EU regulations on crop protection, plant breeding and genetic technology are threatening crop yields and quality, the NFU has warned.

Speaking at a meeting of European Commission officials, member state experts and industry stakeholders in Brussels, NFU crops board vice-chairman Mike Hambly said crop health was being put at risk by decisions taken in Brussels such as the recent restrictions on the use of certain neonicotinoid seed treatments.

Mr Hambly also cited Monsanto’s decision to give up on developing biotechnology in crops for Europe as a second example of “where the European institutions were failing agriculture”.

And he warned that the tougher rules imposed on EU farmers would lead to an increased reliance on imports from areas of the world where standards of production could not be guaranteed.

“Where technology is denied to European farmers, waste will increase because we cannot protect our crops, yields will fall and we won’t be able to compete with imports.

“The impact will be that Europe will have less influence on how its food is produced and the EU’s already substantial net imports will grow. A recent German study estimated the EU net imports of food would take an area the size of the entire territory of Germany to produce. Further to that, more land will be needed as European yields decrease and crop losses pre- and post-harvest increase,” Mr Hambly said.

He also voiced concerns over the management of mycotoxins.

“Without crop protection products that can help limit the formation of disease, yields are going to fall and at the same time levels of mycotoxins could rise. “

“Farmers have an excellent record of managing the risk of crop contaminants and keeping them out of the supply chain, but the Commission is not making our lives any easier when tools in use elsewhere are denied to us here” Mr Hambly said.

“Investments in understanding and controlling mycotoxins are being made through improved understanding of fusarium and other plant diseases, but not as fast as crop protection products are being removed by regulators.

“We remain concerned that with restricted plant genetics and the loss of active ingredients against disease, control of mycotoxins will be compromised and then the threat of regulation could return,” he added.

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