UK to back total ban on bee-harming pesticides

Lucy Purdy

The UK will support a total ban on insect-harming pesticides being used across Europe, environment secretary Michael Gove has announced

In a reversal of the government’s previous position, the UK will back a ban on bee-harming pesticides, environment secretary Michael Gove revealed to the Guardian on Thursday. The decision is thought to make a total EU ban much more likely.


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Michael Gove said new evidence on neonicotinoids – a class of insecticides that damage the central nervous system of insects – indicated the risk to bees and other insects was “greater than previously understood”. A field trial published in July showed that neonicotinoids damage entire bee populations, not just individual insects. And a global analysis of honey revealed worldwide contamination by the insecticides.

Without a healthy pollinator population, we put the whole ecological balance of our world in danger

It also follows the revelation that 75 per cent of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany and probably much further afield too, a discovery Gove said had “deeply concerned” him.

Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticides, but in 2013 the EU banned their use on flowering crops. At the time, the UK was among the nations opposing the ban. The European commission now wants a total ban on their use outside of greenhouses, and a vote is expected to take place in December.

Gove said new research indicates the risk posed to bees and other insects by neonicotinoids is “greater than previously understood”

In the article for the Guardian, Gove wrote: “Environmental change on such a scale is profoundly worrying. Not least because of the critical role played by bees and other pollinators. These particular flying insects are absolutely critical to the health of the natural world. Without a healthy pollinator population, we put the whole ecological balance of our world in danger.”

Not to act would be to risk continuing down a course which could have extensive and permanent effects on bee populations

It went on to read: “While there is still uncertainty in the science, it is increasingly pointing in one direction. Not to act would be to risk continuing down a course which could have extensive and permanent effects on bee populations. That is not a risk I am prepared to take, so the UK will be supporting further restrictions on neonicotinoids. Unless the evidence base changes again, the government will keep these restrictions in place after we have left the EU.”


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