A bee on an oilseed rape flower©WestEnd61/Rex

Almost 85,000 people have signed a petition calling for a ban to be maintained on neonicotinoid seed treatments.

The petition will be considered for parliamentary debate if it reaches 100,000 signatures by the closing date of 24 January 2016.

See also: Four counties granted access to neonicotinoids

Called Don’t kill our bees! Immediately halt the use of neonicotinoids on crops, the petition argues that neonicotinoids should be banned because they are harmful to pollinators.

Some 84,639 people had signed the petition by 11am on Monday, 12 October – putting it well on course to reach its target.

The European Union announced a two-year ban on three neonicotinoids used on flowering crops, including oilseed rape, in December 2013.

It followed mounting concern over the effect of the chemicals on bee populations – although farm leaders dispute the science behind various studies.

This year, Defra granted farmers in four English counties emergency permission to use a limited amount of neonicotinoid-treated oilseed rape seed.

The decision allowed growers to use neonicotinoid-treated seed in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire – up to 5% of the total oilseed rape area in England.

It followed an NFU request that argued that untreated crops were being hammered by cabbage stem flea beetle.

Campaigners from Friends of the Earth then said they would challenge the Defra decision – launching a legal bid in the High Court in an attempt to get permission revoked.

The campaign group argues that Defra failed to comply with EU law which “sets out the conditions under which governments can grant emergency use of the restricted neonicotinoids”.