When I was young it used to be a common sight to see cars splattered with insects and numerous species of bees collecting nectar from plants. Bees and insects are wonderful and part of the connectivity of living processes in our world. Nothing human beings do, and nothing that takes place in the natural world, occurs in isolation. And yet we are using pesticides that kill pollinators whose role is essential to the human food chain.
Neurotoxins that kill much of life on earth on both land and in water, and degrade entire foodchains, are resulting in the ‘colony collapse disorder’ (ie the sudden disappearance) of honeybees (1). In the United States, half the colonies of bees exposed to neonicotinoids disappeared in the course of one winter. The findings of an analysis of 800 scientific papers show that worldwide contamination is indiscriminately wiping out wild animals, including those on which farming depends (2).
The use of pesticides that impact negatively on bees and soil animals seriously threaten the food supplies of humans. So why is Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Elizabeth Truss, seemingly subservient to chemical companies like Bayer and Syngenta to the detriment of the science?
The UK government appears to want to throw everything it has against an EU proposal to suspend their use on flowering crops. Last year the Department of the Environment commissioned a study claiming to show that bees were not being harmed (3). It was so flawed that no journal would take it. The lead author soon left to work for Syngenta (4).
The government’s lifting of the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides and their seemingly appeasing of the chemical corporations who are clearly in their pocket, would suggest that Cameron and Truss are prioritizing the interests of these corporations over and above the sustainability of the eco-system.
This is the take of the BBC who imply that the National Farmers Union (NFU) are complicit:
The government has temporarily lifted a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides in certain parts of the country.
An EU-wide moratorium was put in place after some studies showed the pesticide caused significant harm to bees.
But following a second emergency application by the National Farmers Union, two neonicotinoid pesticides can now be used for 120 days on about 5% of England’s oilseed rape crop.
Environmental and wildlife groups have called the decision “scandalous”.
‘We have fully applied the precautionary ban on the use of neonicotinoids introduced by the EU’
The areas where farmers will be allowed to use neonicotinoids has not yet been decided. According to the NFU, it will be those areas where there are records over the last season or so that the pests – primarily the cabbage stem flea beetle – have inflicted most damage on oilseed rape crops.
Farming Minister George Eustace MP told BBC’s Farming Today that it was “predominantly farmers in Suffolk” who would now be able to use neonicotinoids. He said that the government was approaching the issue “with an open mind” and that there was “a lot of ambiguity” about the evidence (4).
Meanwhile on 23 July 2015, the independent British not-for-profit political-activism organisation 38 Degrees issued an emergency petition:
“Fresh batches of bee-killing pesticides are on their way to British farms right now. Prime Minister David Cameron could stop these toxic chemicals before they are spread across our fields and wreak havoc on bees. But he’ll only do it if enough of us pile on the pressure.
Environment minister Liz Truss has just approved this fresh use of bee-killing pesticides. It’s no surprise – she’s been exposed holding cosy meetings with chemical industry lobbyists. If our environment minister won’t protect bees, we need to turn the pressure onto David Cameron. He’s her boss – and that means he has the power to overturn her decision.
Please can you sign the emergency petition to Cameron now, asking him to overrule his minister and act to protect the bees? It will only take a few seconds.(5).