Bee decline leads to EC action over pesticides

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The European Commission has unveiled plans to restrict the use of insecticides allegedly linked to a decline in the bee population.

Pollinators such as honey and bumble bees, play a vital role in putting food on our tables through the pollination of many crops.  It is estimated that a collapse in pollinators could cost the Scottish economy alone about £43 million a year.

The Scottish Green party are welcoming the plans with Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and rural affairs spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, stating that:
 
“Bees and other pollinating insects are vital to our food supplies and farming economy, and there’s increasing evidence that certain insecticides are harming them. I have previously called for a moratorium on the use of these chemicals and urged the government to review the substances it authorises.
 
“France and other countries have already banned them so it is frustrating when Scottish ministers insist they need more evidence. Thankfully the Rural Affairs committee of the parliament agreed to my suggestion that they investigate this issue.
 
Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides which attack the nervous system of insects, and are routinely used by farmers to help protect crops. The effects of neonicotinoids on bees exposed to the pesticide showed that the bees had a decreased pollen foraging efficiency leading to an increased demand for food in their colony.

The European Commission suggest that sprays that use neonicotinoid chemicals should only be used on crops that are not attractive to the insects. Farmers would be banned from using them with sunflowers, oilseed rape, cotton and maize.

The European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) has issued guidance on the use of neonicotinoids, which they classed as “high acute risks” to bees who encountered the pesticides.

Commission spokesman Frederic Vincent states that the plans are based on scientific research.

“We have requested a proper scientific assessment of neonicotinoids from Efsa. They came up with some concerns, some kind of worrying assessment. So now we are saying to members we have some scientific evidence that there are some concerns from those pesticides and the effects they might have on bees.” he said.

The Commission hopes to have restrictions in place for July.  France, Germany and Slovenia already have bans placed on neonicotinoids.

The numbers of pollinators have been declining steadily in recent years, with the number of bees in the UK alone falling by between 10 and 15 per cent in just two years.

Commenting on the proposals, Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton said:

“This hugely significant EU proposal promises a first, important step on the road to turning around the decline on our bees. The UK Government must throw its weight behind it.

“The evidence linking neonicotinoid chemicals to declining bee populations is growing. We can’t afford to ignore the threat they pose to these crucial pollinators.

“It is time to put farmers and nature before pesticide company profits. Ministers must act quickly to support safe and effective alternatives to chemical insecticides – and bring these forward as part of a National Bee Action Plan.”