Soil Association takes pesticide battle to Number 10

The Soil Association has taken its fight to ban a group of insecticidal seed treatments in the UK to 10 Downing Street, claiming that new research proves that the chemicals are to blame for declining bee populations.

Findings from the project, produced by insect research charity, Buglife, were presented to the Prime Minister’s special adviser, Michael Jacobs, during a meeting at Number 10. Soil Association policy co-ordinator Emma Hockridge who attended the meeting said Mr Jacobs agreed to give the report “consideration.”

The report questioned the effectivness of the current pesticide approval mechanism and claimed that scientific evidence had been overlooked during the chemical’s approval process. It also claimed that this evidence, along with new research, demonstrated that the neonicotinoid pesticides posed a substantial risk to honey bees, even if used at approved application rates.

But Julian Little, Bayer CropScience’s communications and government affairs spokesman, said the report failed to address the importance of pests such as the verroa mite and bacterial, fungal and viral diseases in bee health. “They are looking for a chemical fall guy and not addressing the real issues affecting bee health.”

In some countries where neonicotinoids had been banned, bee health had remained poor, and in others where use had remained high, populations were among the healthiest, he said. For example, “France has a much greater problem of bee health than the UK and neonicotinoid use has been heavily restricted for 15 years.”

Conversely, Australia, which had the healthiest bee population in the world, used neonicotinoides in abundance. “But they don’t have the verroa mite.”

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