27 September 2012
Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs criticised for failure to act on new research linking neonicotinoids with bee decline
Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee has launched an inquiry into the impact of insecticides on bees and other insects – and the Government’s response to evidence of bee decline.
The inquiry follows a report from Defra which concluded that the results of new research into the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees did not justify changing existing regulations.
The department has said it would undertake further research itself in order and produce a new risk assessment for bees by the end of 2012, but has not responded to calls for immediate action.
Caroline Lucas MP, a member of the EAC, has written to Defra ministers to call for a ban on lethal and non lethal doses of neonicotinoids. She said:
“Bees play an essential role in our ecosystem and declining numbers are a huge threat to UK agriculture, so I welcome this timely inquiry by the EAC into the role played by pesticides in the decline.
“Recent research from the US and France exposing the risk to bee colonies from neonicotinoid insecticides should have been a deafening wake up call for the Government.
“Yet despite having previously claimed it ‘would not hesitate to act if presented with new evidence’, Defra has refused to take concrete action in light of the new studies.”
The EAC will examine the basis on which Defra decided not to take action at this stage, paying attention to:
* The use (or abuse) of evidence in this particular case, for setting policy and regulations on pesticides.
* The application of real-world - 'field' - data. What monitoring there is of actual - rather than recommended - levels of pesticide usage, and the extent to which that influences policy on pesticides.
* Any potential impacts of systemic neonicotinoid insecticides on human health.
* What alternative pest-control measures should be used, such as natural predators and plant breeding for insect-resistance, in a bid to make UK farming more insect- and bee-friendly.
Joan Walley MP, chair of the EAC, said:
"Defra ministers may want to start doing their homework on pesticide policy and biodiversity, because we will be calling them before Parliament to answer questions on these issues.
"In particular, we will be scrutinising the evidence behind the Government's decision not to revise pesticide regulations or follow other European countries in temporarily suspending the use of insecticides linked to bee decline."
The Committee invite organisations and members of the public to submit written evidence.
Submissions should be sent to the Committee by Friday, November 2.