20th April 2013
The proposed European ban
The ban is intended for crops which are ‘attractive to bees’, such as oilseed rape and maize and will restrict sowing seeds into the ground during the summer to avoid poisoning from dust clouds. If the ban goes through, it is due to start by the 1st July 2013, and will be reviewed after two years.
These proposed changes in legislation are a step in the right direction, although not a complete solution, to saving pollinators from toxic insecticides, however, this proposed ban has been met with resistance. Member states already voted on this key piece of legislation back in February and it failed to go through.
Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) © Buglife
A number of countries including the UK argued against the ban, calling it a ‘knee jerk reaction’, and that farmers will lose one of their most valuable crop protection tools. This is a far cry from Defra’s promise that “We take any threat to bees very seriously”; a statement on their website as a response to the large number of new scientific studies which show that neonics are impacting badly on pollinators.
The vote on the 29th is now at the appeal process, if Member States fail to come to an agreement, then the European Commission can put the ban in place anyway. If the ban were to go through, around half of the UK’s agricultural land which had previously been treated with neonicotinoids, would be free of these bee-killing insecticides.
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What can you do?
Lots of things!
- Take part in our exciting March of the Beekeepers demonstration Friday 26th April in Westminster, London. To find out more, click here
- Make your garden insect-friendly. To find out how, visit our gardening for insects page.
- Avoid using pesticides in your garden, and give bees a safe place to live in.
- Write to your MP and ask them to persuade Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to vote in favour of an EU suspension. A template letter can be found here.
- Join Buglife today and help us in our campaign against these deadly chemicals. Click here to join.
- Tell your friends, family, teachers, postman etc about these toxic chemicals.
What are neonicotinoids?
Frequently used as a seed treatment, neonics are used on many different crops. The chemicals remain in the plants, travelling into the nectar and pollen where they are consumed by bees and other wild pollinators such as hoverflies and moths. Before a pesticide is first approved, tests are undertaken to look at whether the chemical will kill the organism outright. These tests are performed on honeybees, and only a few other species of invertebrates.
|It is estimated that in the UK, around 97% of oilseed rape (Brassica napus) is treated with neonics|
Neonics are related to Nicotine and target the nervous system; this means that invertebrates can be affected in different ways. Even small doses may lead to ‘sub-lethal effects’ such as making a bee not able to forage for food properly, or queen bees laying less eggs. The original tests were never designed to look at these effects.
The Enviromental Audit Committee report
In April 2013, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), comprised of MPs from all the main parties, released their findings from a four month inquiry into neonicotinoids. The report made several robust recommendations including a suspension on the three major neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin in the UK and for the UK to support the European proposal.
The Committee also expressed deep concern about the highly secretive nature of pesticide regulation and called for data on the environmental safety of pesticides to be made public, and highlighted the urgent need for a wild pollinator monitoring programme, as a way of adequately informing policy making.
Honeybee (Apis mellifera) © Alan Stubbs
Honeybee decline is a global and well documented issue and wild pollinators are decreasing at an alarming rate, the scientific evidence pointing towards neonics is on the rise. Current data shows that roughly two-thirds of the species of pollinator such as bumblebees, hoverflies and moths are declining. Over 250 pollinators are threatened with extinction and the value of pollinators in the UK has been estimated to be around £510 million per year to the UK.
Without these insects, farmers would have to hand pollinate crops themselves at a cost of £1.8 billion a year, similar to the situation in Schezuan, China where pesticides use has decimated insect populations.
Buglife and neonicotinoids
Buglife have been lobbying the Government since 2009, when we published a report, 'The Impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on bumblebees, Honey bees and other non-target invertebrates', looking at the effects of neonicotinoids on invertebrates. Even four years ago, the science showed that there was an effect on wildlife from neonicotinoids but the Government refused to act.