|MPs to Debate Neonics and Pollinators|
On Monday, MPs will debate a petition calling for an immediate halt to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides which have been linked to major declines in bees and other wild pollinators. PAN UK will be following the debate live on twitter (@PAN_UK) and Facebook - click on the links to the right to follow us.
PAN UK, and the "UK Bee coalition" of environmental NGOs, have written to MPs asking them to retain the current temporary EU ban that prevents the use of neonics on flowering crops, and expand it to all crops. The coalition also wants to see the Government support farmers to switch away from chemical pesticides.
You can read the full letter below.
This debate was triggered by a public petition on the No 10 website. This shows that public pressure can force our politicians to respond. A separate petition on the No 10 website is calling for an end to pesticide use in towns and cities; please sign this petition and help us secure another debate on pesticides.
Growing evidence of harm from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides - Westminster Hall debate, 4.30pm, Monday 7 December
1 December 2015 marked the second anniversary of the restriction on some uses of bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides. The restrictions remain in place while the European Food Safety Authority reviews all of the science and data, a process expected to take several months at least.
The Bee Coalition would like to take this opportunity to update Members of Parliament with the latest key events and evidence on the effects of these pesticides.
I hope you will be able to use the points overleaf at the forthcoming Westminster Hall debate on neonicotinoids taking place at 4.30pm on Monday 7 December in response to growing public concern, including the e-petition signed by over 90,000 people so far - see: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/104796.
Since the restrictions started in December 2013, many independent scientific studies have added to a growing evidence base on the harm caused by the use of neonicotinoids to bees and also to butterflies and other beneficial insects, and to the quality of our water and soils.
The Bee Coalition believes that the evidence is such that the restrictions should now be expanded to cover all crops and uses and that the Government, farming and horticultural sectors should be helping farmers and growers to make successful transitions to more sustainable, wildlife-friendly systems, organic and low input forms of farming, growing and pest management.
Do contact me if you would be interested in more information or meeting with Bee Coalition members to explore the issues and address any questions you may have.
Paul de Zylva
The Bee Coalition
The Bee Coalition
Buglife, Client Earth, Environmental Justice Foundation, Friends of the Earth
Natural Beekeeping Trust, Pesticides Action Network UK, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Soil Association, Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Wildlife Trusts
Evidence on neonicotinoids: the key points
1. The ban was implemented in response to the best evidence available at the time
The restrictions were introduced on 1 December 2013 after scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that neonicotinoids pose a ‘high acute risk’ to honey bees. They were unable to assess the risk to other wild bee species owing to the lack of adequate tests and studies.
2. Since that time the evidence for harm to wildlife has become even stronger
A recent government-commissioned summary of evidence firmly establishes that farm levels of neonicotinoids harm individual bees in ways likely to lead to declining populations of wild bees and commercial bumblebees.
Honeybees: Field trials suggest that healthy honeybee colonies, which are more socially complex than other bees, may be able to deal with losses of individual bees from neonicotinoid exposure. Losses may be too much for weak colonies however, such as those already depleted by bad weather or disease.
Bumblebees and wild bees: The best available evidence from a major independent field trial suggests that populations of wild bees and commercial bumblebees in farmland are reduced by neonicotinoids.
Butterflies: The most recent evidence from the UK shows a strong correlation between the use of neonicotinoids and the drastic declines of UK farmland butterflies.
3. In contrast, there is little evidence to demonstrate the benefits of neonicotinoids
Before the restrictions, most UK sowings of oil seed rape seeds were coated with neonicotinoids. This approach means that the pesticide is applied before farmers can know whether or not they might have a pest problem (contradicting the aims of Integrated Pest Management) and despite there being little independent evidence evaluating the benefits of neonicotinoids to crop yields or farm profits.
Since the restrictions, the yields of UK oilseed rape have been above the 10 year average.
Use of other pesticides has increased only slightly, mainly in autumn when pollinators are less active.
Using neonicotinoid coated seed is not more targeted than sprays: 94% of coatings end up in soils and water courses and government-funded research has found high levels in wildflowers and hedgerows.
Pollinator friendly alternatives are possible; increased crop rotations and companion planting to encourage the predators of pests is being trialled by farmers with positive results.
4. The current ban does not go far enough to protect wildlife from the known threats
The current restrictions only apply to flowering crops that attract pollinators, so do not protect wildlife from other routes of exposure, such as contact with contaminated soil and water. Based on the latest government data, the ban does not cover nearly two thirds of neonicotinoids used by farmers. In 2014, over a quarter of all cereals (840,000 hectares) were treated with neonicotinoid seed coatings, with an increase of 43% from the year before.