The agri-business giant Syngenta has withdrawn its controversial application to use a banned pesticide in the UK, after campaigners warned that the chemical could have a devastating impact on threatened bee populations.
The chemical in question is a type of neonicotinoid – a class of pesticides banned across the European Union for two years from December 2013.
Though they are prohibited for their impact on essential pollinator species, including shrinking bee populations, the UK can allow the use of neonicotinoids in “emergency circumstances.” Therefore, Syngenta applied for an exemption to use neonicotinoids on oilseed rape across the UK – claiming it was the only way to protect 186,000 hectares of crops.
The government – which had opposed the EU ban – had been expected to give its ruling on Tuesday. Though that did not arrive, Syngenta has now decided to withdraw its appeal. The firm said it was now too late to supply the pesticide to British farmers for this year’s crops, but said they would apply for another emergency exemption in 2015.
Environmentalists have welcomed the news, after the government came under heavy pressure to reject Syngenta’s appeal.
Campaigners sent an open letter to prime minister David Cameron warning that there would be “no justification” for lifting the ban. Meanwhile, a petition calling on Cameron to “put our bees above Syngenta’s profits” gathered over 219,000 signatures.
“Our under-threat bees can breathe a bit easier this evening,” said Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton, one of the signatories of the letter to Cameron.
“We’re delighted Syngenta has withdrawn this application – the scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid pesticides to bee decline is stacking up.”
Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, added, “This is a victory for pollinators and for science. There was no good reason for allowing this derogation and the impact could have been catastrophic.”
As key pollinators, many species of bees provide essential services to the global economy, yet they are under serious threat from not just pesticides, but also habitat loss, climate change and disease.
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