Save Our Bees – the campaign continues into 2023

By authorising the use of a powerful insecticide to protect sugar beet from aphid-borne disease, the UK government is endangering a host of wildlife including bees and other pollinators that are crucial to crops and flowers. Neonicotinoids or neonics, to name these toxic pesticides, accumulate in the roots of wildflowers, build up in the soil and collect in streams and ponds. The dangers of the release of these poisons into the countryside are considerable.

Thanks to the campaigning of groups like Friends of the Earth, countries across the European Union – including the UK – voted in 2013 to ban the outdoor use of neonicitinoids on all flowering crops and the ban was further extended to all field crops in 2018.

However, the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Defra, has, for the past three years agreed to the use of these harmful chemicals to protect sugar beet crops in the UK. This has appalled many scientists who tell us that a single teaspoon of neonics is sufficient to kill more than a billion bees. Why then has this government authorised the use of such toxic pesticides?

The latest announcement from the government (23 January 2023) states that Defra has attached strict conditions to what has been termed ‘emergency use’ only allowing for application “if independent modelling predicts a virus incidence of 63% or above. If the virus threshold is not met, then the neonicotinoid treated seed will not be used.”

Farmers do need to protect their crops from insects. But researchers like Professor David Goulson from the Univeristy of Sussex believe that less harmful chemicals will not be developed as long as growers are allowed to use pesticides like neonicitinoids in an emergency and the big pharma companies that make them, like Bayer and Syngenta, continue to take powerful legal action against the bans on neonicitinoids.

Greenpeace reports that “the last decade has been devastating for insect populations, and bees have been hit hard – with populations shrinking by a third in the UK.”

On 26 January 2023, Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for the Environment announced the government’s Sustainable Farming Incentive roll-out with new sets of paid actions to support food production and environmentally responsible farming, including “manage crop pests without the use of insecticides”.

But will it actually happen this time?

GreenPeace has raised an online petition to Therese Coffey, to “Enforce a total ban on bee-killing pesticides”. If you would like to sign it, please click here.

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