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The NFU has rejected claims that it secretly lobbied the government for growers to use banned pesticides on sugar beet.

The NFU has rejected claims that it secretly lobbied the government for growers to use banned pesticides on sugar beet.

Environmental campaigner George Monbiot accused NFU Sugar of campaigning “behind closed doors” after the union asked growers to not to publicise a letter written to Defra secretary George Eustice.The letter – in support of an application for farmers to use neonicotinoid treated seed – highlighted the problems experienced by growers who have seen crops devastated by virus yellows disease.

NFU Sugar chairman Michael Sly said the reason that the letter was not forwarded or circulated more widely was because the specific nature of the application meant it only applied to sugar beet growers.

Mr Sly said there were currently no other effective protections against virus yellows, which threatened the viability of home-grown sugar. He added: “The application was not made in secret, in fact it was reported on in the media.”