Bees at risk from pesticide policy, says Brighton MP
Bees are at risk after the government renewed permission for farmers to use a particular type of pesticide, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion said today (Wednesday 1 February).
Caroline Lucas said that the decision did not square with the government’s stated aim of making sure that nature was at the heart of all environment decision-making.
She criticised the decision by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to renew farmers’ permission to use pesticides which contain neonicotinoids.
The Brighton MP spelt put her concerns as the Environment Secretary took questions on the government’s environmental improvement plan in the House of Commons.
Therese Coffey published the plan yesterday (Tuesday 31 January), aiming to build on a vision set out five years ago in the 25-Year Environment Plan.
The measures being taken by ministers include new powers and duties under the Environment Act, Agriculture Act and Fisheries Act.
These are intended to provide ways to restore nature and improve the environmental quality of the air, waters and land.
DEFRA approved the use of “neonicotinoid” pesticides for treating Britain’s sugar beet crop last month, over fears that aphids could spread the debilitating yellow beet virus, blighting domestic sugar production.
In the Commons, Ms Lucas said: “At yesterday’s launch of the plan, the Secretary of State claimed, and I quote, that ‘We are embedding nature at the heart of every decision the government will take’.
“That is a very worthy aim but how on earth does it square with the actual action we see from her department?”
She added: “Just last week, her department gave the green light to an authorisation of the pesticide neonicotinoid which we know kills bees.
“Don’t tell us this was just an emergency authorisation. This was the third year in a row that her department has actually ignored their own expert committee on this issue. This is now becoming routine.
“How can she give us reassurance that when she says words like ‘We are going to put nature at the heart of all our environment policymaking’, she actually means it? Where is the consistency?”
Ms Coffey said: “I think the farming minister (Mark Spencer) went through this in some considerable detail in the consideration. Every year, if an application is made, that has to be considered separately.”
As the Environment Secretary sought to assure MPs that the chief scientific adviser was involved in the process, Labour backbencher Anna McMorrin (Cardiff North) shouted: “You ignored him.”
Ms Coffey replied: “That is not true. There has been very careful consideration given and that is why we will continue to consider these applications with a great deal of care.
“I am very conscious that in terms of what we are trying to do through the sustainable farming initiative, for example, we have brought forward what will be eligible for grants on integrated pest management so that we can continue to accelerate away from using pesticides routinely.”
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It is important to note that the ENTIRETY of Europe has banned NNIs because of the damage it causes. Are we at the stage where we are so academically inept that we are going against such an overwhelming evidence base?