MP calls for action to halt bee decline
Local MP Mark Lazarowicz is calling for a precautionary moratorium on three pesticides – imidacloprid, clothianidin and TMX – linked to the decline of the UK’s bee populations. The North and Leith MP is a longstanding member of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee and its new hard-hitting report on Pollinators and Pesticides is published today.
Mark Lazarowicz (pictured above) said: “As part of our inquiry into insects and insecticides we looked at the sharp decline in the number of bees in the UK and there’s growing concern that the use of certain chemicals might be to blame. Bees matter to both gardeners and farmers because of their role in pollinating fruit and vegetables as well as flowers. They are fundamental to our ecology and economy. The scientific evidence points to the need for a precautionary moratorium to be introduced. DEFRA should listen to it and act.”
Two-thirds of wild insect pollinator species – such as bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies, carrion flies, beetles, midges and moths – have suffered population declines in the UK. Managed honeybees have also experienced unusually high mortality rates, decreased fertility, increased susceptibility to disease and the loss of hives. Similar trends have been observed in the US and other European countries.
Disease, habitat loss and climate change can all affect insect populations, but a growing body of peer-reviewed research suggests that the use of one group of insecticides is having an especially damaging impact on pollinators — neonicotinoids. Applied to seeds, these systemic pesticides are widely used in the UK on oilseed rape, cereals, maize, sugar beet and crops grown in glasshouses.
Authorities in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have already suspended the use of some neonicotinoids in certain circumstances. The European Commission has also proposed an EU-wide moratorium on the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin and TMX on crops attractive to bees, following a recent risk warning from the European Food Safety Authority. The UK has refused to take domestic action or to support the EU proposal.
Many of the UK’s largest garden retailers, including B&Q, Wickes and Homebase, have voluntarily withdrawn non-professional plant protection products that contain neonicotinoids. The report recommends a full ban on the sale of neonicotinoids for public domestic use in order to create an urban safe haven for pollinators.
Pesticide manufacturers often claim that studies linking their products to bee decline are flawed or inconclusive and that other factors are primarily to blame, such as the Varroa mite. But although the agrochemical industry has produced many studies on the environmental effect of pesticides, it keeps most of its data secret on grounds of commercial confidentiality.
The report warns that this lack of transparency is preventing a fuller understanding of the problem. The MPs call on the industry to place the results of its trials and studies in the public domain so that they can be subjected to open academic scrutiny. Defra should help companies establish which genuinely commercially sensitive details need to be redacted to make this possible.