Eight leading trade associations in the UK food chain have written to Prime Minister Gordon Brown requesting a meeting to discuss the proposed European Commission proposals for pesticide authorisations.

The letter outlines the concerns of associations including the British Retail Consortium, Food and Drink Federation and the Fresh Produce Consortium, as well as the NFU and Crop Protection Association, and calls for the Prime Minister to “urgently raise the need for an impact assessment with the [French] President Sarcozy and EU heads of state, for further discussion at the European Council level”.

The joint letter suggests that the removal of crop protection products, without adequate substitution, would result in falling crop yields, increasing pest resistance problems and rising food prices, and could make the growing of many key crops in the UK no longer economically viable.

The British Crop Production Council, Country Land and Business Association and the Agriculture Industry Confederation have also signed the letter.

The letter in full reads:

We are greatly concerned by the European Commission proposals for a new Pesticide Authorisation Regulation. This draft Regulation includes criteria for the removal of pesticide products that have hazardous properties, regardless of the fact that they can be used safely. Current EU legislation is based on risk assessment, which looks thoroughly at all properties of a pesticide and the likely exposure levels.

According to recent reports published by the Pesticides Safety Directorate and ADAS, if the Commission’s proposals are adopted, UK farmers could lose up to 15% of currently approved pesticide substances, many of which are of critical importance to growing crops such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips.  Depending on the interpretation of certain criteria, we could see the loss of many important fungicide products resulting in a 20-30% reduction in cereal yields in the UK. The situation could be significantly worse if a number of European Parliament amendments to the Commission proposals are adopted, as this could lead to the removal of around 85% of all EU approved pesticide substances.

In sum, the removal of these crop protection products, without adequate substitution, would result in falling crop yields, increasing pest resistance problems and rising food prices, and could make the growing of many key crops in the UK no longer economically viable. We could also see a significant increase in the carbon foot print of key crops such as wheat and potatoes in the region of 25 to 100%.

Leading trade associations in the UK food chain, feel strongly that the UK Government should take every step possible to ensure that the EU-wide impact of these proposals is fully understood and mitigated where they could have unacceptable impacts on food supply.. A key action should be to call on the European Commission to undertake and publish a full EU-wide impact assessment of the pesticide cut off measures on consumers before this Regulation is agreed by the Council.

As we understand the French Presidency is seeking to complete the legislative process for this Regulation by the end of December, we request that you urgently raise the need for an impact assessment with President Sarkozy and other EU Heads of State, for further discussion at the European Council level.

At a time of rising food prices and food security concerns, we must be certain that we do not introduce EU legislation which has an unacceptable impact on EU farmers’ ability to grow reliable, abundant supplies of high quality, affordable food or unseen consequences for consumers.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you as a food chain group to discuss our concerns on this issue in more detail.