BBCT response to DEFRA position on neonicotinoid pesticides – 9 November 2017

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust welcomes DEFRA Secretary of State Michael Gove’s statement that the UK Government will support the European Commission’s proposal to both keep the current ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on flowering crops, and to extend these restrictions to non-flowering crops, including after the UK’s exit from the EU. 

The current moratorium covers the use of three pesticides (imidocloprid, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin) on a range of mostly flowering crops, but their use is still permitted on non-flowering crops.  The EC proposes to extend this to ban the same three pesticides on all crops except those grown in fully-contained greenhouses.  This is good news for bumblebees: it is clear, when looking at the research base as a whole, that neonicotinoid pesticides pose an unacceptable additional risk to UK bumblebee populations.  Field-relevant doses of neonicotinoids have been found to cause a range of sub-lethal effects which interact with other stressing factors to reduce bumblebees’ abilities to forage for food or combat diseases, ultimately reducing the success of the colony.

This is important not just because we love bumblebees: as some of our hardest-working pollinators, they pollinate the flowers in our gardens and wild flowers in the countryside and also contribute a large part of the ‘£400-680 million per year’ mentioned by Mr Gove as the annual value of pollination in the UK.  This – in the form of high-quality produce – forms the basis of the £108 billion UK food and drink industry.

It is important to note that this proposal would not ban the use of these three pesticides in non-agricultural situations: their use would still be permitted in gardens, horticulture, amenity plantings, greenhouses and for private use.  Additionally, many other non-neonicotinoid pesticides can and do cause harm to bumblebees and other pollinators, and we must ensure that neonicotinoids are not simply replaced by equally-problematic equivalents.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust works with farmers across the country to conserve populations of Britain’s rarest bumblebees by combating some of the biggest threats: habitat loss, degradation, fragmentation and isolation.  We look forward to continuing to help farmers work in as bumblebee-friendly a way as possible.

Links:

The advice from the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides underpinning Mr Gove’s statement.

DEFRA statement.

Mr Gove’s Guardian article.

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