Wildlife charity takes legal action over bee killing pesticides

Wednesday 14th November 2012

Wildlife charity, Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust is asking Defra to justify their decision to allow the use of bee killing pesticides or face a court case.

Yesterday Buglife, with Client Earth and a legal team, submitted evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into the impact of insecticides on bees and other insects. The evidence ‘Neonicotinoid insecticides and bees: the sate of the science and the regulatory review by Buglife’ has been sent to Defra and is intended to constitute a letter for the purpose of the Judicial Review.

Neonicotinoids are a comparatively recent type of insecticide that targets the central nervous system of insects.  These insecticides are getting into pollen and nectar, blowing as seed dust into hedgerows and seeping through the soil into rivers and ponds.  There has been growing concern from a mounting array of scientific studies that show that they make bees more susceptible to disease, less able to forage and reduce breeding rates.

Buglife believes that the decision made by Defra that ‘no change in the existing regulation of neonicotinoids is required’ is susceptible to challenge by way of a judicial review. Buglife is questioning the grounds on which Defra made this decision.

Buglife argue that the legislation is clear, governments need to take a precautionary approach in regulating pesticides. As a result France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have suspended various neonicotinoids. Meanwhile in the UK the use of neonicotinoids has grown to the point where they are used on 1.2 million hectares of the British countryside.

Matt Shardlow, Buglife Chief Executive Officer said “Buglife has repeatedly raised concerns about the potential damage that these insecticides are causing to pollinators and the service they provide to us, but every time new evidence is published Government repeats that there is not enough proof to act. Our argument would be to ensure these chemicals do not harm the environment prior to licencing. We now think that the only way to ensure that the process will have proper regard for the ecological importance of invertebrates is by taking a legally rigorous approach”.

Buglife has been concerned for some years that pesticide regulation is not able to identify chemicals that will damage populations of wild, non-target, invertebrates. Back in 2009 Buglife produced a scientific review that recommended that neonicotinoids should be withdrawn until their environmental safety was established.

Matt Shardlow said “If we win the case, and even if we just make significant progress, we will make the process for deciding what pesticides can be used in the countryside much more open and precautionary, and a wide range of wildlife should be better protected”.

“If we lose the case, bees, butterflies and earthworms will suffer and wildflowers, garden flowers, fruits and much more with dwindle. This loss could cost UK farmers an estimated £510 million annually in crop yield, with the addition of alternative pollination methods costing an additional £1.8 billion each year”.