The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) has granted temporary authorisation for the use of the plant protection products Elado FS 480 and Cruiser OSR for the seed treatment of oilseed crops. The new authorisation concerns seeds to be sown in the spring of 2016. The active substances of these two products are neonicotinoids, the use of which the European Commission has temporarily prohibited as being potentially harmful to honey bees. No alternative seed treatment products or other effective methods are available for the control of flea beetles on spring oilseed crops.
In spring 2013, the European Commission restricted the use of plant protection products that contain the neonicotinoids imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin as active substances as well as the use of seeds treated with these products for crops attractive to honey bees, because it was suspected that the active substances caused bee deaths. Of the crops, turnip rape and oilseed rape, for example, are considered to be attractive to honey bees.
Temporary authorisation was granted for seed treatment for spring 2016, as no alternative seed treatment products or other effective methods are available for the control of flea beetles. EU member states may grant temporary authorisation for a plant protection product for a period not exceeding 120 days if the danger cannot be contained by any other reasonable means.
In Finland, the majority of oilseed crop cultivation is based on varieties sown in spring due to our northern conditions. Spring oilseed crops are more sensitive to damage by flea beetles than varieties sown in autumn. Without seed treatment, flea beetles may damage the stand so much that only a minority of the seeds develop into seedlings. The cultivation of oilseed crops using untreated seeds could increase the need for sprayings with plant protection products after sowing, but these would not, however, save the already damaged seedling stand. In addition, the synthetic pyrethroids used to replace seed treatment are very toxic to pollinators, other arthropods and aquatic organisms.
“Oilseed crops are an excellent alternative to cereals in crop rotation, and reduce the need to use plant protection products. If there is no effective method to control flea beetles, cultivation areas of oilseed crops may plummet or oilseed crop cultivation may be abandoned altogether. As a result, the production of domestic vegetable oils would become considerably more difficult, and Finland’s protein self-sufficiency would weaken,” says Kaija Kallio-Mannila, Director of Chemical Products Surveillance at Tukes.
The Finnish Beekeepers Association (SML) has discussed the temporary authorisation and does not object to it, provided that sowing is carried out with seeders other than pneumatic equipment.
According to a statement by the National Emergency Supply Agency (NESA) submitted to Tukes, turnip rape oil and protein groats play a major role as raw-materials for the food supply and the animal feed industry. Securing the supply of them is therefore strongly emphasised in the event of serious disruptions and emergencies.
Assessment of the harmfulness of neonicotinoids continues
The use of neonicotinoids was restricted, because it was suspected that the active substances are harmful to honey bees. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has gathered research results on the issue since 2013. Once the EFSA has completed its assessment, the Commission will review the restrictions. The EFSA has not provided any exact schedule, but the aim is, within the limits of the resources available, to complete the assessment as soon as possible.
In 2013, MTT Agrifood Research Finland (now within the Natural Resources Institute Finland, Luke) and the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira launched a two-year project to study the effects on honey bees of neonicotinoid products used for seed treatment and foliar spray treatments in oilseed crop cultivation. According to the interim report published in September 2014, pollinating insects are exposed to neonicotinoid levels that are close to the risk limits. However, no effects of neonicotinoids were found on the overwintering of bee colonies. The final report of the project will be published in December 2015.
“The effects of neonicotinoids on pollinating insects must be taken seriously due to potential harm caused to ecosystems and agriculture. However, at the moment the damage caused by flea beetles cannot be controlled by other methods. Environmentally sustainable plant protection solutions for the seed treatment of oilseed crops must be developed as soon as possible,” says Kaija Kallio-Mannila.
For more information:
Satu Rantala, Senior Adviser, tel. +358 29 5052 013
Kaija Kallio-Mannila, Director, tel. +358 29 5052 036