Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Safeguarding Our Bees Is a Sticky Subject; the Government Must Ban Pesticides Linked to Declines in Bees and Other Pollinating Insects, MPs Have Urged. EMILY BEAMENT Buzzes around a Sticky Issue

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Safeguarding Our Bees Is a Sticky Subject; the Government Must Ban Pesticides Linked to Declines in Bees and Other Pollinating Insects, MPs Have Urged. EMILY BEAMENT Buzzes around a Sticky Issue

Article excerpt

MINISTERS have been accused of taking an extraordinarily complacent approach to protecting bees and insects which perform an important role pollinating crops, following their failure to support European Commission moves to restrict use of insecticides known as neonicotinoids.

Concerns have been raised over possible damage to bees from exposure to neonicotinoids, with research suggesting immediate or long-term effects on bee colony survival and development, and disruption to foraging behaviour.

The Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee said the weight of evidence now warranted precautionary action to protect insects such as bees, moths, butterflies and hoverflies, many of which are suffering declines in numbers in the UK.

A moratorium on use of three neonicotinoid pesticides on crops such as oil seed rape which bees feed on should be introduced by the beginning of 2014, a report by the committee said.

And their use in private gardens and places such as golf courses should be banned immediately to create an urban safe haven for bees.

The report also called for greater openness from pesticide companies, which use arguments of commercial sensitivity to keep data secret, so that their research into the environmental impacts of chemicals could be scrutinised.

The European Commission wants to restrict the use of certain neonicotinoids so they cannot be used on crops that are attractive to bees, but the UK Government has said the move is not backed by evidence.

The UK had urged the Commission to wait for the results of a Government-commissioned field study on bumblebees, which did not show conclusively that there was a major impact on the insects from the pesticides.

But yesterday's report concluded the research was fundamentally flawed and should not be used as a basis for inaction.

The MPs also said that when scientific evidence was incomplete or contradictory, the Environment Department (Defra) should take precautionary action rather than maintaining the status quo while waiting for further evidence.

Environmental Audit Committee chairwoman Joan Walley said: "Defra seems to be taking an extraordinarily complacent approach to protecting bees given the vital free service that pollinators provide to our economy. "If farmers had to pollinate fruit and vegetables without the help of insects it would cost hundreds of millions of pounds and we would all be stung by rising food prices.

"We believe that the weight of scientific evidence now warrants precautionary action, so we are calling for a moratorium on pesticides linked to bee decline to be introduced by January 1 next year."

This would allow farmers to use treated seeds which have already been bought for the coming growing season, she said.

Defra's chief scientific advisor Professor Ian Boyd this week said the issue was finely balanced, with a number of laboratory studies finding impacts on bees, but other experiments conducted in the field showing no or little effect on bees from the pesticides. …

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