Farmers warn red tape puts crop production under threat
A Cornish farmer has told senior EU policymakers that over regulation is running the risk of damaging crop production.
Mike Hambly warned that tightening EU regulations on crop protection, plant breeding and genetic technology was threatening European crop yields and quality.
Mr Hambly, who farms at Callington in East Cornwall and is vice-chairman of the National Farmers' Union crops board, told European Commission officials, member state experts and industry stakeholders, that regulations would also lead to an increased reliance on imports from areas of the world where standards of production could not be guaranteed.
Speaking at a meeting in Brussels at the weekend, Mr Hambly said: "Where technology is denied to European farmers, waste will increase because we cannot protect our crops, yields will fall and we shan't be able to compete with imports
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"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 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, who is also chairman of the South West arable sector board, said the EU's decision to restrict the use of certain neonicotinoid seed treatments and the decision of biotech giant Monsanto to give up developing biotechnology in crops for Europe were two examples of where the European institutions were failing farming.
"We also have concerns over the management of mycotoxins," said Mr Hambly. "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 EU Commission is not making our lives any easier when tools in use elsewhere are denied us here."
But Mr Hambly added that the Commission was putting science first in developing new regulation on mycotoxins, particularly the presence of T-2 and HT-2 mycotoxins in food and feed.
"Investments in understanding and controlling mycotoxins are being made through improved understanding of a variety of plant diseases, but not as fast as crop-protection products are being removed by regulators," he warned.
"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."