Soil Association gives bee evidence to parliament
20 November 2012
The Soil Association has given evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into Insects and Insecticides. Speaking to MPs on Wednesday 21 November policy director Peter Melchett and policy manager Emma Hockridge called on the Government to take strong action against one of the key culprits causing a catastrophic decline in bee and other pollinator numbers: neonicotinoid pesticides.
The inquiry is being held following a decision from Defra to take no action to withdraw neonicotinoid pesticides. The Committee will examine the basis on which Defra decided not to take action and whether this course is justified by the available evidence. The Soil Association’s keep Britain buzzing campaign wants to ban neonicotinoid pesticides and is working promote bee-friendly organic farming so everyone can make a difference by simply changing their shopping habits.
Peter Melchett, Soil Association Policy Director said; “There is now strong evidence that neonicotinoids are responsible for the declining number of bees and other pollinators. Neonicotinoids were first used in agriculture in the mid-1990s and this was exactly the time when mass bee disappearances started occurring.
“The evidence against these chemicals is strong enough that they have been banned or suspended in France, Germany and Italy – but not yet in the UK. The Government must follow the lead of other European countries which have taken steps to ban neonicotinoid pesticides.”
The Soil Association told the inquiry:
- The UK Government is ignoring the strong and quickly growing body of scientific evidence which points to the damaging impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinating insects, including bumblebees and honey bees.
- Defra has made commitments to put in place new research to explore further the impacts of neonicotinoids on bumblebees, and have acknowledged that the risks of pesticides to bees needs to be updated, but these plans ignore the weight of existing evidence, and will delay the action that the Government should take now.
- Scientists have established that very, very small doses of neonicotinoids, well below what European governments consider a ‘safe’ level of toxic chemical, can disrupt bee behaviour in ways likely to contribute to the collapse in numbers of honeybees, bumble bees and other pollinating insects.
- The European Food Standards Agency has admitted that neonicotinoid and other systemic insecticides have not been properly evaluated ever since their introduction and use of some neonicotinoids has been either banned or suspended in the USA, Germany and France. Italy banned neonicotinoid insecticide use on maize and this led to a halving of winter honey bees deaths over three years.
- Banning neonicotinoid pesticides need not adversely affect farmers’ profits as Italian government research showed.
- UK and EU pesticide safety testing is not of an acceptable standard. First, it relies not on science but on industry data, which is not subject to scientific peer-review and publication. Second, there is no requirement for companies to publish all the research they conduct, with the risk that cherry-picked, favourable studies are used to obtain regulatory approval. Third, no safety testing which looks at the impact of repeated, very low doses (below accepted ‘safe’ levels) of pesticide are required. Fourth, little or no research is done on the impact of likely combinations of pesticides (the cocktail effect) that insects like honey bees and other insects will actually encounter on farms.
You can view a video of the full evidence session on the Parliament TV website here.
The full evidence submitted to the committee can be found here.
NOTE: This story was updated on 21 November with a link to the video of the evidence session and minor grammatical changes.