Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Bees under threat as Government relaxes pesticide ban

Photo: John Freeman
Just as Lancaster's Beekeepers were getting deserved media attention for introducing newcomers to their craft, celebrating their much-admired work, came wider news interest in our best-known pollinators. And it wasn't good.

Perhaps hoping no-one would notice, the government recently allowed bee-killing pesticides to again be unleashed across Britain's farms, threatening bees, butterflies and bugs we rely on to grow our food.

Scientists' warnings got these pesticides banned across the European Union, but the government appears to have caved in to the powerful pesticide industry and the National Farmers Union to let them be used here again.

Campaigners, including Friends of the Earth and the others are both bemused and angry, after the government not only authorised the pesticide use, but also tried to silence experts cautioning against them.

"It's up to us to stop this madness -- if we continue to poison our pollinators, the hedgerows, fields and fruit trees of this country will end up silent," says campaign group Avaaz, one of several groups who have launched online petitions to raise awareness of the government's actions.

"Overturning a decision like this is going to take an unprecedented number of us speaking up. But we can do it... Sharing the petition online could have the ripple effect we need.

"While the rest of Europe has backed a ban and seen their bee numbers are continuing to recover, the farming lobby in Britain has always preferred an industrialised chemical-powered approach to agriculture and with an attitude which says 'as long as the yields are good, to hell with the consequences!'

"It's true that some reports show that neonicotinoids can deliver a short-term improvement on harvests," Avaaz acknowledges, "yet if we carry on using these pesticides the wider impact on critical pollinators will be catastrophic.

"Last Parliament, we saw how frustrated the government can get when presented with evidence-based science, doing all it could to block Europe bee-saving moratorium for pesticide use. Now it wants to go it alone across our green and pleasant lands.

"But we know they are nervous -- gagging scientists from speaking out and burying notes from previous meetings. We have also seen how u-turns are possible, with the fox hunting vote killed off -- but that was only possible because a petition went completely viral with thousands of people sharing with their friends and family. Let's do it this time for the bees. Sign the petition and share it now everywhere you can think."

"The huge public interest in bee decline and pesticide use contrasts with the Government’s excessive secrecy and handling of this decision to let bee-harming pesticides back into our fields this autumn.," says Paul de Zylva of Friends of the Earth, who are also campaigning hard against the decision. "We have now sent a legal letter because of the lack of information, raising concerns about the decision-making process and the lawfulness of the decision."

Two years ago, Avaaz members across Europe came together to introduce the first continent wide-ban on neonicotinoids. The hope is that they can succeed again

Sign the Avaaz petition here

• Friends of the Earth suggest you can ask the Government to come clean.  Tweet to the Environment Secretary Liz Truss MP (@trussliz) today

Local Links

Lancaster Beekeepers

More information:

Pesticide experts silenced by UK Government as it looks to bring back bee-killing neonicotinoids (The Independent)

UK government gags advisers in bees and pesticides row (The Guardian)

NFU attempt to dodge pesticides ban: Bee Coalition reaction

Independent research supporting the continued ban

Friends of the Earth briefing: Neonicotinoids & bees: Scientificstudies increase the case for apermanent ban (PDF)

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