Bad news for bees: Government reverses ban on bee-killing neonicotinoids

Bumble bee on bird's-foot-trefoil (c) Tim Hill

The Government has agreed to authorise the use of the highly damaging neonicotinoid thiamethoxam for the treatment of sugar beet seed in 2021. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust strongly oppose this decision.

Neonicotinoids (neonics) are banned across Europe over concerns that they kill bees and other pollinators. In 2017, the UK Government supported restrictions on the neonicotinoid pesticides across the European Union. The Environment Secretary at the time, Michael Gove, gave a commitment to maintain these restrictions post-Brexit unless the scientific evidence changed.

The Secretary of State, George Eustice, made the decision to allow the use of neonics in response to the potential danger posed from beet yellows virus. A similar application was refused in 2018 by the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides because of unacceptable environmental risks.

The authorisation also proposes adding weed killer in and around sugar beet fields to 'protect' bees by killing wildflowers that grow alongside the sugar beet - because beneficial 'weeds' will have absorbed neonics through the contaminated soil. Doing so would further reduce the amount of land suitable for insects and other wildlife. This is going in the wrong direction for our call for at least 30% of our land and sea to be connected and protected for nature’s recovery by 2030.

41% of all insect species are now threatened with extinction

The Wildlife Trusts believe there needs to be a significant reduction in the use of pesticides, particularly insecticides with this level of effect. Insects perform vital roles such as pollination of crops and wildflowers, and nutrient recycling, but so many have suffered drastic declines. Evidence suggests a loss of at least 50% of insects since 1970, and 41% of all insect species are now 'threatened with extinction'.

As an alternative to highly-damaging insecticides like neonics, we want to see more Government support for farmers to enable them to move to alternative approaches such as integrated pest management schemes. We believe that we shouldn’t have to choose between producing our own food and wildlife. 

The Wildlife Trusts are asking supporters to sign a petition to urge the Prime Minister to reverse its decision on the use of neonics and help to protect our embattled bee population. Sign the petition here.

The Wildlife Trusts have further advice for people on taking action to help insects at home or in communities by becoming an insect champion on the Action For Insects project.

 

How you can help

Join us in telling the Prime Minister that neonicotinoids have no place in a Wilder Future.

Sign the letter