UK Government authorise pesticide that kills bees

Bees are essential workers for our ecosystems and agricultural industries, so why are the UK Government so adament to damage them when they’re already struggling?

Earlier this week, UK Environment Secretary George Eustace gave farmers authorisation on the use of a pesticide containing neonicotinoid thiamethoxam on sugar beet seeds, following the UK’s official leave from the European Union which banned the use of the pesticide due to the damaging effect it has on bee populations.

Many people on Twitter, including many local Wildlife Trusts called out the dangerous and disgusting government disregard to the safety of the UK’s environment, let alone undermining efforts by Trusts to repopulate the missing bee population over the last few years. Most famed amongst the complaints was Sue Perkins, who shared a petition via change.org to stop the reintroduction of the pesticide in the UK.

Sue Perkins via Twitter.

Matt Shardlow, the chief executive of the invertebrate conservation group Buglife, said it was an “environmentally regressive” decision that would destroy wildflowers and their ability to produce the nectar necessary for polinating insects, including bees. “In addition, no action is proposed to prevent the pollution of rivers with insecticides applied to sugar beet,” he said.

“Nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban neonics from use on sugar beet in 2018. They are still going to harm the environment.”

Asides from the environmental factors of this authorisation, there is also the problematic instance of exporting. Since leaving the EU, trading UK-grown goods requires them to still be maintained under EU standard, of which the UK trades up to 6 million of their cane and beet sugar production with EU countries according to Statista.

The UK Government back in 2018 supported the ban, with Michael Gove the then Environmental Secretary stating,

“The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood … We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.”

At present it would appear the current government have gone back on the promise from Gove, who insisted the UK would only authorise “unless the evidence base changes” post-Brexit which currently isn’t the case.

According to Farming UK in 2018, Worcestershire is home to roughly 4,400 farms – many of who are dominantly fruit farmers from apples and the famed pears for ciders, to strawberries, blackberries etc. Farms such as these are thus reliant on the local bee and other pollinator populations who contribute massively to one of the UK’s biggest economic industries. Despite the authorisation being only for ’emergency complications’, it sets a dangerous prescedent as the chemical residue can linger for years after use, damaging and endangering local insect wildlife that benefit the farming industry.

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