01 May 2018

Bee Kind, Rewind

Many will have noticed the recent decision by EU member states to endorse the European Commission’s proposal to completely ban all outdoor use of certain, widely-used neo-nicotinoid pesticides, which have been reported to have a detrimental effect on honeybee and wild bee populations. This has followed a decision in 2013 to only ban the use of such pesticides on flowering crops; those which are most likely to attract bees.

Whilst the UK was one of the member states to oppose the partial ban initially, Michael Gove, the Government’s Environment Secretary, has indicated that in the light of further evidence highlighted in a report by the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP), extending the ban as proposed by the Commission is something that the Environment Secretary now considers to be justified.

Whilst many will see the ban as a victory for conserving bee populations, which have historically served certain sectors of the food industry well with their pollination prowess, as well as for reducing the incidence of pesticide contamination in food products, others see the measures as overly cautious and serving to rewind years of development of the farmer’s armoury against pests which can blight crop production. This comes at a time when concerns over global food shortages are steadily growing as current projected food production trends fall well short of the projected demand of a global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

Agri-Science was identified in 2014 as part of the UK Intellectual Property Office’s (IPO) “Eight Great Technologies” report as a robust and growing area for innovation in the UK.

It seems that now more than ever the gauntlet has been thrown down for Agri-Tech innovation to respond to the further challenges to maximising crop production.

Nevertheless, we have already had glimpses of the new technologies which might provide the answer, including the use of drones and robotics, farm management software packages, vertical farming, aquaponic farms for urban environments, gene-editing and biological pesticides, to name but a few.

Thus, although the decision to reign in the use of certain pesticides might make crop protection that bit more difficult in the short term, innovation in this area is a promising sign that there will be other new tools for the farmer to rely on to maximise crop protection sustainably in the future.

Mathys & Squire’s Agri-Tech team are working with a range of businesses at the cutting edge of farming and food production.

If you want to know more about this topic or any other Agri-Tech related area, please contact Mathys & Squire partner, Mike Stott on [email protected]

Mike has a first class master’s degree in chemistry from the University of York, and was awarded the university’s ‘ICI Prize’ for his performance in the final examinations. Mike has worked in the patent profession since 2008 and prior to that worked in the pharmaceutical industry. He has been involved in the drafting and prosecution of patent applications in the UK, Europe, and many overseas jurisdictions, including the US.