What now for bees in the UK?
Previously, I reported that the EU approved 2 further next generation neonicotinoids: Sulfoxaflor
and Flupyradifurone despite earlier EFSA
conclusions and restrictions.
At the time of the Flupyradifurone approval – the second neonicotinoid to be approved within the space of 3 months, PAN and the European Beekeeping Co-ordination stated:
Unfortunately, yet a further insecticide was approved in August 2016. PAN note:
Many times I have stated in my blogs that without meaningful changes to the regulations, we are simply banging our heads against a brick wall. Large agrochemical organisations can afford to keep bringing out new poisons ad infinitum. For all the bleating about development costs, sales are in the $£billions.
The UK government attempted to block any EU restrictions to
neonicotinoids. However, things have
moved on in the UK since that time.
instance, farmers were denied their two most recent “emergency requests” to use
neonicotinoids (of 3 emergency request, only the first was granted), and the UK “bee
scientist” went to join her former DEFRA colleague at Syngenta – this was widely
publicised, and you can read more about the Uk bee scientist joining Syngenta.
Things have also changed politically - for example, there is a new DEFRA Secretary.
At the time of writing, in the UK there is much uncertainty around Brexit. In my opinion, our actions should be more or less the same regardless:
I realise some people would like a total ban on all pesticides immediately. However, I think that encouraging and rewarding wildlife friendly farming, ensuring proper information for farmers and a stronger regulatory framework would result in a dramatic reduction in pesticide use, and eventually, better methods, such that the methods used today could become obsolete, and be replaced quite naturally with wildlife friendly methods. But try beating farmers over the head with a stick without giving them help, support and information is wrong. Farmers themselves face many, many challenges.
However, in the event of Brexit, then, as a number of conservation organisations and scientists state; there is a chance to use this as an opportunity to gain additional protection for wildlife.
There is general agreement that the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) needs to be revised.
So in summary, here are a few things we could do:
- The agrochemicals industry pays a research fee to a government body for testing – probably the Chemical Regulations Directorate. But since we cannot trust our ‘government bee scientists’ it needs to be overseen by a further independent body with no connection to the NFU or agrochemicals industry.
- The government body allocates the testing to appropriate Universities.
- The tests are conducted on a ‘blind’ basis: the University must not know whether or not they are testing a chemical, or the ‘control’, and the commercial organisation must not be made aware which university is conducting the tests.
- The results can then be made public and open to scrutiny.
- These are my initial ideas, and perhaps need some work, but it would provide universities with additional income, they would have to remain free from corporate influence as a prerequisite to be eligible to perform tests, and we need to have confidence in the system.
So I'll finish with a point made by Buglife, the Invertebrates Conservation Trust - but they are only one of a good number of genuine conservationists speaking out on this opportunity to improve UK wildlife protection - we miss it at our peril!