Environmental campaigners have launched a petition urging prime minister David Cameron to uphold a ban on pesticides that pose a serious risk to threatened bee populations.
On Tuesday, the government will consider an appeal from the pesticide manufacturer Syngenta regarding three types of neonicotinoids – a class of pesticides subject to a two-year European Union-wide ban from December 2013.
Though they are prohibited for their impact on essential pollinator species, the UK can allow the use of neonicotinoids in “emergency circumstances.”
Syngenta has therefore applied for an exemption to use neonicotinoids on oilseed rape across the UK – claiming it is the only way to protect 186,000 hectares of crops.
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However, the move comes only days after scientists warned the evidence that the pesticides are harming bees and affecting global food systems is “very clear”. This followed a separate study from Harvard University, which came to the same conclusions, and prompted US president Barack Obama to outline a national plan to help pollinators.
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.
Campaigners have therefore launched a petition through the protest platform 38 Degrees calling on Cameron to “put our bees above Syngenta’s profits.”
Matt Shardlow, chief executive of the charity Buglife, said, “If the government approves Syngenta’s kneejerk and cynical application then the public are bound to question whether ministers are too close to the agrochemical companies and too distant from the ecology that feeds us.”
The petition has gathered 159,000 signatures so far, approaching its target of 200,000.
Paul de Zylva of campaign group Friends of the Earth, a member of the Bee Coalition network commented, added, “The widespread use of neonicotinoid seed treatments is not compatible with sustainable farming.
“Pesticides should be used only when they are really needed, not as an ‘insurance’ against possible pest damage. We need to see a wholesale shift to more bee-friendly ways of farming.”
Photo: Michaela Kobyakov via Free Images