Government launches plan to boost bee health

DEFRA has announced proposals for a series of research projects to try to establish why bee populations are in decline.

The projects formed part of the National Pollinator Strategy consultation launched on Thursday 6 March.

The strategy will focus on investment in research and monitoring to gain a firmer understanding of the nature of the problem and its drivers as well as carrying out 18 priority actions.

These include action to help improve management of farmland support to pollinators, such as increasing the uptake of integrated pest management (IPM) by farmers and growers.

Another action will look at how the government could improve and strengthen the sharing of knowledge on pollinators between scientists, conservationists and non-government organisations from 2014.

The NFU said that farmers and growers were acutely aware of the importance of insect pollinators and their declines and are also concerned about the effects on crop and wild plants.

NFU vice-president Guy Smith said that farmers and growers had a huge amount to offer in helping to tackle problems faced by pollinators.

“We need to encourage their involvement and part of this will rely on today’s farmers and growers getting due recognition that they are part of the solution for pollinators, rather than hit them again with the ‘agricultural intensification’ stick and blame them as the cause of the problem,” said Mr Smith.

“Farming can and does continue to deliver real benefits for pollinators, through continuing development of IPM techniques across the industry and uptake of positive management to provide food and a home for pollinators.

“The NFU realises that pollinators are an incredibly emotive subject which is why, throughout, our main aim was to ensure that this consultation was balanced and based on sound science and evidence.”

The NFU’s lead on bee and pollinator issues, Chris Hartfield, welcomed the consultation which he said could bring positive changes once it was launched in the summer.

“There are a lot of common sense actions given the fact there are such huge gaps in the evidence and our understanding of the problems facing pollinators.

“It is right the government is seeking to address the gaps and we need to get some comprehensive monitoring schemes in place and take action within agri environment schemes.”

But environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth gave a more a but said it must be considerably strengthened if it’s going to be effective.

Senior nature campaigner at Friends of the Earth, Paul de Zylva, said pollinators play a crucial role in our farms, gardens and countryside and we cannot be taken for granted.

“The government rightly recognises the need for an action plan to safeguard Britain’s vital bees – but these proposals need to be considerably strengthened if we’re to get Britain buzzing again.

“Our bees are facing an unprecedented crisis. Ministers must ensure all the threats are tackled, especially those from intensive farming and pesticides.”

You can read the consultation in full on DEFRA’s website

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