Further restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides backed by government

The UK supports further restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids due to their effects on bees and other pollinators Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced.

He said that tougher restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides are justified by the growing weight of scientific evidence they are harmful to bees and other pollinators.

Unless the scientific evidence changes, the government will maintain these increased restrictions post-Brexit.

This follows advice from the UK government’s advisory body on pesticides which said scientific evidence now suggests the environmental risks posed by neonicotinoids – particularly to our bees and pollinators – are greater than previously understood, supporting the case for further restrictions.

Research estimates the value of the UK’s 1,500 species of pollinators to crops at £400-680million per year due to improved productivity.

Mr Gove said: "I’ve always been clear I will be led by the science on this matter. 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. I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.

"I recognise the impact further restrictions will have on farmers and I am keen to work with them to explore alternative approaches both now and as we design a new agricultural policy outside the European Union."

Since December 2013, the EU has banned the use of three neonicotinoids – Clothianidin, Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam – on a number of crops attractive to bees, such as oilseed rape.

Mr Gove continued: "The European Commission has proposed restricting the same three neonicotinoids to only allow their use on plants in glasshouses. Currently, their use is banned for oilseed rape, spring cereals and sprays for winter cereals, but they can be used to treat sugar beet and as seed treatments for winter cereals. Should this proposal be adopted, the UK would have the right to consider emergency authorisations. We would only do so in exceptional circumstances where there is a real need for the products and the risk to bees and other pollinators is sufficiently low."

CLA Chief Land Use Policy Adviser Susan Twining has responded by saying: “Regulatory decisions on crop protection products must always follow the science. However it is vital to acknowledge the negative impact that removing yet another tool from farmers will have on their ability to farm efficiently and profitably, as we develop a post-Brexit strategy for profitable farming."

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: "Michael Gove is absolutely right to listen to the science and back a total ban on neonicotinoids. Study after study has shown these pesticides can harm bee colonies and contaminate our environment for years. Bees are vital not just to our countryside and wildlife but to the human food chain too as they pollinate many of the fruits and vegetables we eat. We cannot take any chances with their well-being. Now Gove should forge ahead with the promised reform of our broken farm subsidy system so that it supports the kind of agriculture that produces healthy food while also protecting our countryside."