Ban on ‘bee-harming’ pesticide moves a step closer after vote

The Huntingdonshire Beekeepers' Association apiary at Hinchingbrooke Country Park

The Huntingdonshire Beekeepers' Association apiary at Hinchingbrooke Country Park - Credit: Archant

A proposed total ban on a type of pesticide which is believed to cause serious danger to bees has been welcomed by most local beekeepers.

The European Union looks set to bring in a ban on the use of neonicotinoids in fields after the move was backed by MEPs.

But farmers remain concerned about the loss of what they consider to be a useful pesticide at the risk of harming crop protection without bringing significant improvements to bee populations.

A report by EU scientific risk assessors concluded that neonicotinoids - which have often been used on oil seed rape crops grown in the Huntingdonshire area - present a serious danger to bees.

A moratorium on the use of the pesticide has already been tried.

Nick Steiger, of Huntingdonshire Beekeepers’ Association, said: “In brief, the ban is welcomed by most but not all bee keepers. Historically there has been some conflicting data but it is now accepted that there are detrimental effects on bees.

“The chemicals seem to interfere with the bees ability to navigate along with impacting the bees overall health.”

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Mr Steiger said: “It has to be said that there are some bee keepers who think that this whole issue is overblown. The problem is that these chemicals are complicated and it is only recently that the long term effects on bee health have started to become clear.

“There are also other reasons that bees suffer such as lack of plant diversity, parasites such as varroa and to some extent climate change.”

Dr Chris Hartfield, senior regulatory affairs adviser for the National Farmers’ Union, said: “The NFU is concerned that the assessments fail to take proper account of what is happening to bees in real field situations, where evidence shows there are a number of factors affecting them and that the greatest declines in bee biodiversity pre-date the use of neonicotinoids.

“The reality is that there is a balance between environmental protection and food production that has to be considered and the impacts of a ‘no neonicotinoid’ scenario on pollinators also need to be fully assessed.”

Dr Hartfield said: “Without this, there is a real risk that current restrictions on neonicotinoid use will continue to do nothing measurable to improve bee health, while compromising the effectiveness of crop protection.

“The NFU wants to see a risk-based approach taken on this issue, where the impacts of potential changes are fully understood and recognised as providing genuine opportunities to improve bee and pollinator health.

He added: “Farmers are acutely aware that bees play a crucial role in food production. Farmers rely on bees to pollinate crops and have planted around 10,000 football pitches of flower habitat across the country to support a healthy bee population and give them a good home.”