The Government is deciding whether to temporarily reverse a ban on extremely toxic pesticides in spring even as MPs prepare to vote on new laws protecting bees and other pollinators from harmful chemicals, as part of the Environment Bill.
Neonicotinoids (NNs) were banned for agricultural use in the UK and the EU in 2018 due to their devastating impact on bees. Even minute traces of these toxic chemicals in crop pollen play havoc with bees’ ability to forage and navigate, with catastrophic consequences for the survival of their colony.
Environmental organisations such as the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and Buglife say they are concerned sugar producer British Sugar is again applying for an emergency authorisation to use NN thiamethoxam in sugar beet in England in 2022.
British Sugar was successful when it made the same application last year because of the threat posed by a virus, transmitted by aphids. But bees were protected by a cold winter which killed off large numbers of aphids, meaning the threshold for use was not met and thiamexthoxam was not used.
The decision to approve thiamethoxam use last year was made despite the government’s own advisors recommending against approval, which was brought to light through Freedom of Information requests lodged by Friends of the Earth
The government’s decision, despite HSE’s objection, provoked an outcry with around 40 organisations signing an open letter to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who said that allowing farmers to use these harmful pesticides ignored the science and seriously undermined the Westminster Government’s own aims to leave the environment in a better state than it found it.
The RSPB, Buglife and Friends of the Earth say that the Government should be going much further to ensure that farmers have alternatives to harmful pesticides, and increasing the protection for bees and other wildlife from the harm caused by pesticides.
This week on October 20th MPs will vote on a clause in the landmark Environment Bill that would directly protect pollinators from pesticides.