Three types of neonicotinoid pesticides are harmful to bees, the European Food Safety Authority has said, after evaluating all the available evidence. The recommendation is that these pesticides should not be used on flowering crops. Worryingly, however, the British government seem to want to ignore the science and allow the continued use of neonicotinoids.
The population of bees is falling fast. Since 2007 the amount of bees in the UK has dropped by 30%, though some reports show an even greater loss. It might not sound important, but this is extremely concerning for our ecosystem, countryside, and for the agriculture industry. Around three quarters of crops are reliant on pollination by bees, not to mention the pollination of wild plants and honey production. A collapse in bee population would be a disaster.
This problem is occurring all over Europe and elsewhere in the world. There are many possible reasons for it, but one that has been raised time and time again is the use of pesticides. In 2011 I questioned the European Commission about the effect of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees, and was told there was not enough scientific evidence to act. A year and a half later and we have the evidence, and we must act.
What we need to see is a ban of these pesticides on flowering plants under EU law. It doesn’t make sense for one EU country to ban certain neonicotinoids if their neighbouring countries continue to use them, and whole colonies of bees continue to die. The EU must lead the way on this globally, and the British government should be leading the way in Europe.