Government puts bees at risk once again

Tuesday 24th January 2023

  • The Government, for the third year running, has allowed for a banned bee-harming pesticide to be used by Sugar Beet farmers in England, threatening our precious pollinators
  • In making the decision ministers, once again, went against the explicit advice of their own scientific advisors, and the independent advice of the Expert Committee on Pesticides, not to allow the pesticide to be used.
  • The decision goes against the government’s green promises, and will ultimately lead to the harm of wildlife.

Yesterday Defra announced that it has authorised the use of the banned Neonicotinoid pesticide Thiamethoxam on Sugar Beet in England in 2023, because of the potential threat posed by a virus transmitted by aphids.

This decision follows a recent joint letter sent to the Secretary of State from conservation NGO’s, including Buglife, Wildlife & Countryside Link and the Pesticide Collaboration, congratulating the UK Government on signing the new Global Biodiversity Framework at COP15 in Montreal and calling for a rejection of the, then outstanding, application for the emergency use of Thiamethoxam during 2023.

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 or wildflowers play havoc with bees’ ability to forage and navigate, with catastrophic consequences for the survival of their colony. A recent study showed that even one exposure of a neonicotinoid, such as Thiamethoxam, had significant impacts on bees ability to produce offspring in future years.

Within the decision document, Defra Chief Scientist’s advice does not present a verdict on the evidence, but does downplay the legitimate concerns of the Health and Safety Executive by questioning the necessity of maintaining a 10x safety factor in preventing environmental concentrations reaching harmful levels – a well-established safety margin which recognises the uncertainty in the science.

In addition the Defra decision statement also dismisses the problem of water bodies exceeding their Predicted No-Effect Concentration (PNEC) levels saying “the PNEC is set to support the monitoring of levels of Thiamethoxam in water and exceedance of the PNEC is therefore not in itself a cause for concern”.

At the end of 2023, if the REUL Bill becomes law as it stands, all environmentally protective pesticide legislation will be revoked – unless specifically rescued by the minister.  After that point the minister will be able to amend any remaining retained pesticide legislation, almost at will, by issuing Statutory Instruments – there will be no need to justify derogations and no parliamentary oversight of pesticide laws.

Bees and other pollinators need better protection to be enshrined in law.

Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife, said: “The minister has approved further environmental destruction of bees and aquatic life, we must hope against hope that there are enough frosts to reduce aphid population levels so that the threshold to use the neonicotinoid is not met. This has been going on far too long. By Defra’s own admission the benefits of using these seed treatments have been wildly overestimated, neonicotinoid use on crops routinely damaged the environment without providing any significant benefit to crop yields. Pesticide legislation has been devised to protect humans and the environment, but UK ministers have been using it to protect the profits of agri-industry, we are deeply concerned with what will follow if the REUL Bill passes into law and removes parliamentary control of pesticide laws, turning them into easily amended or disposed of ministerial diktats.”

If you would like to see this issue discussed further you can make your views known through signing this petition 👉