The Crop Protection Association (CPA) has criticised Friends of the Earth after it called for a ban on certain pesticides linked to a decline in bee populations.
A report – The Decline of England’s Bees – shows that pesticide use rose by 6.5% between 2005 and 2010.
The report was published by leading bee experts at Reading University as part of the environment charity’s latest campaign, The Bee Cause.
Paul de Zylva, nature campaigner at FoE, said: “It’s shocking that pesticide use is still on the rise on the very crops that bees visit most when their use is being increasingly linked to the decline in bee populations.
“As well as an overdue investigation into the impact of pesticides on bees, the government must make urgent changes to the way we plan our towns and cities and farm our countryside so we can reverse their decline.”
The increased use of herbicides is destroying sources of food for bees, warns the report.
Bees are critical to the food supply and economy in Britain, but populations of some species have fallen dramatically in recent years. Two British bumblebee species have become extinct and honeybee colonies fell by 53% between 1985 and 2005, the report shows.
Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the CPA, criticised the FoE’s call for a ban on certain pesticides and branded it a “knee-jerk” reaction.
“The crop protection sector recognises the critical importance of bees as a pollinator for agriculture and food production,” said Mr Dyer.
“However, CPA rejects calls for a reduction or suspension in the use of approved pesticide products, which would simply result in unnecessary crop losses without any benefits for bee health.
“Science-based statutory controls on pesticide approval at EU and UK level include specific assessments of any potential risks to bee health, to ensure that when approved crop protection products are used as directed there should be no adverse effects on bee populations.
“Most experts agree that the decline in bee populations is down to the Varroa mite and other parasitic diseases, combined with the problems associated with habitat loss, colony stress and climate change.
“We must ensure that knee-jerk calls to ban certain pesticides do not deflect research effort and resource away from these pest and environmental issues, which together present the major underlying challenges to bee health.”