The UK Government says it will back an EU extended ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been widely shown to harm bees and other pollinators.
The UK has previously resisted tighter restrictions on the pesticides, saying there was insufficient evidence. Yesterday, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, said that was no longer the case.
Until now, Britain has generally backed powerful farming interests who have claimed the chemicals are safe. The UK was overruled in 2013 when the EU banned three types of neonicotinoid pesticides for most uses in the fields. The European Commission now wants to extend that ban to all uses except in greenhouses.
Announcing that the UK would support further restrictions on neonicotinoids, Gove said: “We want our decisions to be informed at all times by rigorous scientific evidence. Not to act would be to risk continuing down a course which could have extensive and permanent effects on bee populations. That is not a risk I am prepared to take, so the UK will be supporting further restrictions on neonicotinoids.”
Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, called the Government’s announcement a ‘landmark shift’. He said: “We are delighted that science, rather than the political and economic influence of the chemical industry, may start to decide whether pesticides are safe or not.
“It is great that Michael Gove has accepted the overwhelming scientific evidence that neonicotinoids are killing bees, other insects and birds. Gove said there ‘may be a case for going further’ than the current temporary ban, which applies to three neonicotinoid sprays and their use on only some crops. He is right – all neonicotinoids should be banned because research shows they are getting into wild flowers, turning what should be safe havens for bees and butterflies into potential killing fields.”
Picture: Green MEPs join a protest against the use of neonicotinoid pesticides