Bee killing pesticide banned by the EU approved by the government

A bee-killing pesticide which is banned by the EU has been approved for use by sugar beet farmers in England.

The government has been accused of "bowing to pressure from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU)" and going back on a promise to keep restrictions on the pesticides.

In 2017, then-environment secretary Michael Gove welcomed the EU ban on the pesticides, and promised that “unless the scientific evidence changes, the government will maintain these increased restrictions post-Brexit”.

The NFU argued that a limited and specific use of the Cruiser SB neonicotinoid needed to be authorised by government in order to protect the 2021 sugar beet crop.  1,200 of its members lobbied the environment secretary asking to be able to use the controversial chemical.

Cruiser SB is used by farmers to protect sugar beet from Virus Yellows disease, which can wipe out a significant proportion of the crop.

However, the government’s own analysis has found that the pesticide has risks to bees, and to birds which ingest the treated seeds.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said in a government document that this authorisation is only for growers who do not have any other way of preventing the disease on their crop, and the amount they use is restricted. The authorisation only applies for English farmers in 2021.

Environmental campaigners have spoken out against the government’s decision to approve the pesticide.

Josie Cohen, Head of Policy and Campaigns for Pesticide Action Network UK said: "Infuriating to hear that the UK Government has bowed to pressure from the NFU and British Sugar to allow UK sugar beet farmers to use bee-toxic neonicotinoid seed treatments in 2021."

Joan Edwards, Director of Public Affairs at The Wildlife Trusts added: "The Government has bowed to pressure from the National Farmers Union even though, three years ago, the UK Government supported restrictions on the neonicotinoid pesticides across the European Union, because of the very clear harm that they were causing to bees and other pollinators. At the time, the then Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, gave a solemn promise to maintain these restrictions unless the scientific evidence changed. The evidence has not changed – the devastating impact this group of pesticides is having on our wildlife just keeps growing, and hardly a month goes by without yet more evidence of the wider ecological crisis.

"In the UK, our insect populations have suffered drastic declines, which are set to have far-reaching consequences for both wildlife and people. Recent evidence suggests we have lost 50 per cent or more of our insects since 1970, and 41 per cent of the Earth’s remaining five million insect species are now ‘threatened with extinction’. Insects are food for numerous larger animals including birds, bats, reptiles, amphibians and fish, and they perform vital roles such as pollination of crops and wildflowers, pest control and nutrient recycling."

A Defra spokesperson said:“Emergency authorisations for pesticides are only granted in exceptional circumstances where diseases or pests cannot be controlled by any other reasonable means. Emergency authorisations are used by countries across Europe.

“Pesticides can only be used where we judge there to be no harm to human health and animal health and no unacceptable risks to the environment. The temporary use of this product is strictly limited to a non-flowering crop and will be tightly controlled to minimise any potential risk to pollinators.”

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