MPs call for pesticide ban to protect bees

8th April 2013

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Natural resources ,
  • Biodiversity ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Agriculture ,
  • Chemicals



Defra's refusal to back an EU ban on insecticides linked to declining bee numbers has been slammed by the environmental audit committee

In a report examining Defra’s approach to protecting the UK’s pollinating insects, the environmental audit committee (EAC) concludes that the environment department has allowed economic considerations to influence its decision not to support the European Commission’s proposed ban on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides – imidacloprid, clothianidin and TMX.

Following the recommendations of the European Food Safety Authority, and in light of a growing number of studies linking neonicotinoids to falling numbers of pollinators, the commission proposed an EU-wide moratorium on the use of the chemicals on crops that are attractive to bees.

France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have already introduced similar bans and a number of UK retailers, including B&Q, Homebase and Wickes, have stopped stocking products containing the pesticides.

Defra, however, will not back a ban unless it is “proportionate”, reveals the EAC’s report. The committee warns that the department’s interpretation of the precautionary principle has seen economic factors – such as the impact of a ban on the agriculture sector – become “entangled with environmental decision making”.

“This not only contradicts Defra’s stated commitment to the precautionary principle, but risks overlooking the significant economic value of insect pollinators,” it states.

“Defra must apply the precautionary principle rather than maintaining the status quo while waiting for further evidence.”

Joan Walley, chair of the EAC, argued: “Defra seems to be taking an extraordinarily complacent approach to protecting bees given the vital free service that pollinators provide to our economy.

“Ministers have refused to back EU efforts to protect pollinators and can’t even come up with a convincing plan to encourage bee-friendly farming in the UK.”

Alongside introducing a ban on the insecticides in line with the commission’s proposals, the committee recommends that Defra reviews its interpretation of the precautionary principle and prioritises its work on valuing ecosystems services.

“The available evidence suggests that wild insect pollinators are declining in abundance. One reason why pollinators might lack sufficient protection against threats is a lack of understanding of their true worth,” commented Walley.

“More research is needed to monitor pollinator populations and establish the impact that particular pesticides are having, but Defra must not use this as an excuse to avoid urgent precautionary action.”

However, responding to the EAC’s report a Defra spokesperson argued that more evidence was needed before introducing a ban.

“Decisions on neonicotinoids must be based on sound scientific evidence. That’s why we want the commission to agree to our suggestion for a major new field study to get the best, most up-to-date evidence.

“That will allow informed decision-making, rather than rushing into a knee-jerk ban based on inconclusive studies.”

The EAC also called on pesticide manufacturers to be more transparent with the results of their studies into the impacts of neonicotinoids.

“Pesticide companies often try to pick holes in studies linking their products to bee decline, but when pushed to publish their own research and safety studies they hide behind claims of commercial sensitivity,” commented Walley.

"The industry must open itself to greater academic scrutiny if it wants to justify its continued opposition to the precautionary protection of pollinators.”

Transform articles

National climate plans could see fossil fuel demand peak by 2025

Demand for fossil fuels will peak by 2025 if all national net-zero pledges are implemented in full and on time, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast.

15th October 2021

Read more

The Green Homes Grant is set to deliver only a fraction of the jobs and improvements intended, leading to calls for more involvement from local authorities in future schemes.

23rd September 2021

Read more

COVID-19 recovery packages have largely focused on protecting, rather than transforming, existing industries, and have been a “lost opportunity” for speeding up the global energy transition.

23rd September 2021

Read more

Half of the world's 40 largest listed oil and gas companies will have to slash their production by at least 50% by the 2030s to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, new analysis has found.

9th September 2021

Read more

None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.

30th July 2021

Read more

The UK’s pipeline for renewable energy projects could mitigate 90% of job losses caused by COVID-19 and help deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. That is according to a recent report from consultancy EY-Parthenon, which outlines how the UK’s £108bn “visible pipeline” of investible renewable energy projects could create 625,000 jobs.

30th July 2021

Read more

Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

30th July 2021

Read more

The oil and gas industry is set to burn through its allocated carbon budget 13 years early unless decisive action is taken immediately, new analysis has found.

22nd July 2021

Read more

The UK will no longer use unabated coal to generate electricity from October 2024, one year earlier than originally planned, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has announced.

2nd July 2021

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert