The European Union has a bug problem.
After regulators in late 2013 banned pesticides called neonicotinoids, linked in some studies to the unintended deaths of bees, farmers across the continent applied older chemicals to which many pests had developed a resistance, allowing them to survive. Now, infestations may lead to a 15 percent drop in this year’s European harvest of rapeseed, the region’s primary source of vegetable oil used to make food ingredients and biodiesel, according to researcher Oil World.
“When we remove a tool from the box, that puts even more pressure on the tools we’ve got left,” said farmer Martin Jenkins, who has seen flea beetles for the first time in almost a decade on his 750 acres of rapeseed outside Cambridge, England. “More pesticides are being used, and even more ridiculous is there will be massively less rapeseed.”
At issue for the EU was protecting bees that farmers rely upon to pollinate more than 80 percent of Europe’s crops and wild plants, valued at 22 billion euros ($26 billion) annually. While research on how neonicotinoids affect beneficial insects hasn’t been conclusive, regulators said the risks were worth imposing a two-year ban that began in December 2013. The Canadian province of Ontario proposed similar restrictions last year, and new rules are under review in the U.S., the biggest oilseed producer.
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