21 Aug 2018

Ban of controversial pesticides could cost the country $1.2 billion

9:42 am on 21 August 2018

New Zealand will soon get the message that axing the controversial pesticides, Neonicotinoids, will land the agricultural sector with a $1.2 billion bill.

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Photo: supplied

That's because without the pesticides to ward them off, bugs will savage grain, maize silage, brassica and other sectors.

The message comes in the form of a report due to be presented to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) before the end of October.

It was written for the Agricultural Chemical and Animal Remedy Manufacturers Association, known as Agcarm, in 2014, but was never released.

Neonicotinoids are in the firing line because they are lethal to bees.

Bees are essential for cross pollination and so are vital to life on earth.

The European Union banned use of three major Neonicotinoids in all places except self-contained glasshouses.

The Canadian Federal Government has also proposed controls, though less rigorous than the EU measures.

Here in New Zealand, use of Neonicotinoids is banned near beehives or on flowers that are likely to be visited by a bee.

But the EPA has opened a new investigation, to see if tougher measures are called for here, in light of the developments overseas.

Agcarm's report is being dusted off as part of its submission to the EPA.

Chief executive Mark Ross has given some preliminary information from the report, saying a ban on Neonicotinoids would be very serious.

"It would be a massive impact," he said.

"We have information that shows the impact could be over $1 billion dollars to the New Zealand economy.

"That would include the cost of looking at alternative treatments, and there are not a lot of alternative treatments [available].

"There is also the fact that plants will not grow to the same capacity [without Neonicotinoids] as they do now.

Mr Ross added the $1.2 billion cost did not accrue solely from crop failure or low crop productivity because of insect attack.

It is also the need to use more land for the same output, the need to buy insecticides that cost more than Neonicotinoids and higher prices for consumers.

The final cost would be far lower if alternative insecticides had a comparable price.

The EPA's investigation has been welcomed by Apriculture New Zealand.

It said there had been no definitive reporting of hives being affected by Neonicotinoids in this country, but some hives definitely had died off - pesticides such as Neonicotinoids could easily be to blame - and more research was definitely needed.

Mark Ross said Neonicotinoids were mainly used against insects like aphids, grass grub and Argentine stem weevil.

They worked internally within the plant, which killed off insects that ate them.

But he said they had not harmed the bee population, which had more than doubled since the year 2000.

Neonicotinoids have been used in New Zealand for over 25 years.

It is expected that Agcarm's views will be challenged when the EPA collates all its submissions.