The use of a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids has been restricted in Switzerland since 2018.
Neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine developed in the 80s and 90s. They attack the nervous system of insects causing paralysis and death. Their use has been linked to the collapse of the honey bee population and traces of them can be found in soil long after their use, even in fields where they have not been used.
Currently, Switzerland’s sugar producers are losing up to 50% of their sugar beet crop to beet yellows virus, a disease spread by aphids, according to RTS.
Sugar beet growers have asked the government for temporary permission to use Gaucho, an insecticide produced by Bayer that was banned in Switzerland on 1 January 2019.
Beet growers in France have been allowed to temporarily use the product. However, the Federal Office of Agriculture (FOAG) in Switzerland has decided to stand firm and not allow its use.
Instead, FOAG has authorised two leaf treatments to help combat aphids and launched a project to find alternative methods to control the problem.
Swiss growers fear the ban will give growers in France and other EU countries an unfair competitive advantage and has asked that only sugar produced without the banned insecticide be allowed to be imported into Switzerland.
Pro Natura and BirdLife Suisse, have welcomed FOAG’s decision. According to these organisations, rather than fighting the symptoms, the sector needs a higher level strategy.