UK criticised for approving pesticide that harms bees and pollinators

The UK government is to allow farmers to use a bee-harming pesticide on crops this year, despite it being banned in the EU. 

Defra agreed to the National Farmers Union’s application to use neonicotinoid insecticides on sugar beet seeds. Neonicotinoids are known to wash off seeds and be absorbed by wildflowers, through which they poison bees and other pollinators. They also travel through the soil and pollute rivers, harming mayflies and other aquatic invertebrates.

Defra said that farmers must try to prevent harm to bees and other pollinators by destroying flowers “in and around sugar beet crops”, and it’s not clear how the proposal will prevent neonicotinoids getting into rivers. As recently as 2016, the River Waveney was acutely and chronically polluted with neonicotinoid insecticides that had washed off sugar beet seeds.

A similar application in 2018 was refused after the Expert Committee on Pesticides advised that the proposal would harm bees, birds, mammals and aquatic insects.

“This is an environmentally-regressive decision by Defra,” said Matt Shardlow, CEO at conservation organisation Buglife. “The new question is how will increased use of herbicides on field margins and hedgerows add to the onslaught being experienced by insect populations.”

Image credit | Shutterstock
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