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U.K. Farmers Say Food Output Cut as EU Bans Pesticides

U.K. food production is stagnating as European Union regulators ban pesticides, and growers need the same access to crop-protection products as competitors outside the bloc, the country’s National Farmers’ Union said.

U.K. farmers’ access to crop protection materials is becoming “worryingly depleted” due to EU over-regulation, the NFU wrote in an e-mailed statement.

Crop production in the U.K. stalled in the past 30 years, while global output of major crops increased, the NFU said. EU farmers have lost the use of more than half of 850 registered pesticides since 2001, and the union is concerned that the remaining 422 active ingredients could be halved again in the next five years, according to an NFU report released today.

“When leading scientists are warning that within a generation the world could be facing a perfect storm of food shortages, this is not the time to be taking away the tools our farmers need to produce disease free, high yielding crops,” NFU Vice-President Guy Smith was cited as saying in the statement.

Regulation is pushing up costs, making local products less competitive against imported foods, the union said. U.K. farmers need to be able to use the same technology as competitors in order to have productive agriculture, it said.

The herbicides Trifluralin and Isoproturon are banned in the U.K., while they’re still “widely used” in the rest of the world, the NFU said. The EU banned Trifluralin in 2007, citing high toxicity to fish.

EU regulations to test and approve agrochemicals have become “prohibitively expensive” and time consuming, according to the group, which said it’s working with industry partners on “safeguarding the crop protection toolbox.”

The EU last year temporarily banned some uses of three neonicotinoid pesticides, citing health risks to bees.

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