Neonicotinoid insecticides control early season pests during seedling emergence and during the vulnerable, early growth stages of plant development, leading to earlier and faster planting and more uniform crop stands with higher plant populations and less insect damage.

Prior to the commercialization of these neonicotinoids, most insecticide products didn’t last long enough to provide effective control.

In recent years, the neonicotinoid insecticide has come under fire, particularly being blamed for bee colony collapse syndrome. In December, the European Union set a two-year ban on the insecticide’s use by EU farmers.

Vroom said the CropLife report was not in response to this most recent ban by the EU. It was a coincidental occurrence that the report came out the same week the EU made the announcement.

“However, I would observe that the EU is announcing something unusual almost every week. So, it really doesn’t matter what week we would have chosen. So, no, we are not reacting or responding to the European Union’s regulator decisions,” Vroom said.

“We are in constant dialogue with our colleagues at the European Union Crop Protection Association and have been pleased that the U.S. government has also participated in the dialogue about the regulatory science that underpins decisions … and we’ve talked to a lot of European farmers who are very worried about the loss of this technology for their planting beginning 2014 and the impacts on productivity that are almost certain to be very negative for European agriculture.”

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There is a big difference between the U.S. and the EU on risk assessments, he said. Maybe the EU will change their mind on this technology one day.

Stewardship with seed treatment technology must continue, Vroom said, rotating different modes of action not only to protect the environment but to protect the benefits of the technology and prevent resistance to it as long as possible.

“On the issue of resistance on the farm, because we love these technologies and recognize the benefits, not only is it my benefit but when I benefit everyone benefits. … We constantly now are paying attention to best management practices.

“So whether it is insect resistance or whatever it is the educational efforts to use as producers and we do care. And because we want to keep technology means we are doing the things necessary through rotations, whether it is herbicides for weeds, crop rotation to work against resistance build up,” Burrack said.

Seed treatment is the fastest growing agricultural chemicals sector, Vroom said, mainly due to the high cost of GM seed used today.

According to the study, stacked trait cotton seed (220,000 to 250,000 seeds) typically carries a technology cost of between $300 and $400 per bag. A big investment and growers have to think hard on how best to protect it.

Here are some seed treatment industry economic highlights from the study:

  • Seed treatment products, applied to nearly every acre of corn planted in the U.S. in 2011, helped support nearly $80 billion worth of crop value to American farmers.
  • The global seed treatment market was valued at $2.43 billion in 2011. Insecticides accounted for 52 percent of the total market revenue, followed by fungicides, which accounted for 35 percent of revenue.
  • The global fungicide seed treatment market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 9.2 percent and is expected to reach $1.4 billion by 2018.
  • The global insecticide seed treatment market is projected to reach $4.2 billion by 2018, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 10.8 percent.

A little history on seed treatments: The earliest reported use of a seed treatment dates back to 60 A.D., when wine and crushed cypress leaves were used to protect seed from storage insects. The active component in this mixture was likely hydrogen cyanide.

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