A SEED treatment ban could cost the UK economy £630m, according to a new report.

Restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments could lead to yield declines of up to 20 per cent in winter wheat, slashing incomes for 15,000 growers and representing a loss to the UK economy of up to £630m.

That is the main conclusion of a new EU report into the value of such treatments, published in Brussels by the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture (HFFA).

The report concludes that neonicotinoids – used as a seed coating to protect against specific insect pests in key crops such as winter wheat, oilseed rape, barley and sugar beet – are critical for successful, profitable crop production in the UK.

At EU level, the review suggested that closing the gap in productivity caused by removing the treatments would require an additional three million hectares of land, and could cost the EU economy as much as 17bn euros (£13.8bn) over a five-year period.

The report was produced with the support of the European Seed Association, COPACOGECA and the European Crop Protection Association.

It was in response to calls for neonicotinoid products to be restricted due to concerns over declining bee populations.

Dr Anne Buckenham, CPA director of policy, said: “This report serves as an important reminder that any knee-jerk action to ban certain insecticidal treatments would have disastrous consequences for crop production in the UK and across Europe, with serious implications for food prices and availability at a time of mounting concern over global food security and market volatility.”

She said the crop protection industry recognised the importance of bees as a pollinator for agriculture and food production.

“It is vital that the causes of bee health problems are properly understood, and our industry actively supports ongoing research and stewardship programmes aimed at protecting bee health,” she said.

Dr Buckenham said scientific and field-based evidence pointed to the Varroa mite and parasitic diseases, combined with habitat loss, colony stress and climate change, as the key factors implicated in declining bee populations.

She said: “A ban on the use of neonicotinoid seed treatments would be unlikely to improve bee health, but would remove a key crop protection technology which, as this report demonstrates, is vital for economically and environmentally sustainable crop production in the UK and across Europe.”