I have recieved many emails from constituents regarding neonicotinoids and bees. I am in no doubt about the importance of pollinators to our food supply, biodiversity and economy and I have a deep concern about declining bee numbers and the role of neonicotinoid insecticides in that reduction. Currently, as part of the EU the UK has a ban on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, as a last resort a farmer can petition the UK to ask the European Commission for a waiver for their use, 3 of these were granted across the whole of the UK last year. This ban will not necessarily continue after we leave the EU.
I believe that the UK policy on pesticides should be based on science and be open and transparent. The research published in the Nature Communications journal and by Sussex University last year - which emphasises the risk of neonicotinoids to bees cannot be ignored.
The Government is at least paying lip service to this ideal. In answer to a Parliamentary Question the Government spokesperson Lord Gardiner would not directly commit to continuing the restrictions. But, he did said that “decisions on the use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides should be based on a careful scientific assessment of the risks. Pesticides that carry unacceptable risks to bees, other pollinators and the environment should not be authorised.”
The position of the Labour Party is clear: The Government should continue to abide by the current EU-wide restrictions after we leave the European Union. We cannot afford to engage in a race to the bottom and damage our environment and wildlife in the name of cutting commercial corners. Wherever applications have been made to waive the ban we need to ensure that it really is a last resort and elminating their use entirely has to be an option.
Until the UK does leave the EU, EU law will still have effect in the UK, and the Government has said that current arrangements for our environment - including in relation to the ban on neonicotinoids - will remain in place until we leave.
The Government needs to set out its strategy for the future and how it will protect the environment, including our bees. It is also vital to take a science-led approach to pesticide use and to consider how best to support farmers, protect wildlife and reverse the decline of pollinators.