Controversial pesticide use? UK is the bees knees

Bees collecting pollen

Well that didn’t take long, did it? No sooner was the United Kingdom out of its European Union child reins, or however the pro-Brexiteers wish to describe it, than the Government broke a promise on a bee pesticide.

According to a report by the Guardian, a pesticide that is believed to kill bees was banned by the EU two years ago – and now it has been cleared for use in the United Kingdom.

A product containing a particular pesticide has been allowed for emergency use, after lobbying by the National Farmers’ Union and British Sugar. Wouldn’t you think these were two organisations that surely should know better? Their argument is that it will kill off the threat posed by a virus. We don’t want another one of those in 2021 to turn into a pandemic, I suppose.

Rivers, rainwater and land could all be affected, say conservationists. They call the decision “regressive”, especially when British insects are in huge decline.

The UK is not the only country to allow this emergency use. Eleven countries are doing so. What’s just as significant is that the UK has broken a promise not to reintroduce the chemical, thiamethoxam. In 2018, Michael Gove, then the Environment Minister, agreed that the “weight of evidence” it posed of the threat to bees and pollinators meant “we could not afford to put them at risk by using it”.

The report adds that Thiamethoxam was widely used in the UK since 2007. This matched the period in which some British bee species declined significantly. Bees’ immune systems were weakened, and under development of baby bees’ brains left them unable to fly. Which meant there were fewer pollinators of our food and a big impact on wildflowers and nature.

Farmers want to use the chemical to protect sugar beet crops. Yields in 2020 are estimated to be down 25 per cent on previous years, says the Department for the Environment, Farming and Agriculture. Whereas advertisers for the makers say the chemical will increase crops by 13 per cent. Defra says licences for use will be granted only in emergency cases. It adds that protecting pollinators “is a priority for this Government”.

It’s a difficult balance. But surely protecting nature and the Climate Emergency has to be the over-riding priority and another solution must be found?