The National Farmers Union (NFU) has applied to the UK government for permission to use banned neonicotinoids. The pesticides – often called neonics – are extremely harmful to bees, and have been banned in the EU since 2013. Despite the ban, the government last year authorised the use of neonics after a similar application from the NFU. Lifting the ban again could have serious implications not only for bees, but also for human health.
ClientEarth lawyer Tess Crean said: “Neonics were banned to protect our bees, but the ban is meaningless if it is not applied. Bees are essential for the production of healthy food for us to eat. By failing to respect the ban, the government not only endangers bees – it endangers us.”
Neonics cause devastation to bees and other pollinators. In reaction to increasing scientific evidence showing their harmful effects, the EU banned the use of neonics in 2013. Protests from farmers that this would harm their profits proved to be unfounded, as crop yields actually went up after the ban was put in place.
Banned neonicotinoids harm insects pollinating 80% of our food
Bees have a crucial role in our natural world and in our food system. In the UK alone, 80% of the fruit and vegetables we eat are pollinated by insects – this includes bees, flies and butterflies. Bees are particularly important, as they pollinate many of the crops we rely on for a healthy diet, such as fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. Insect pollination provides three-quarters of the world’s food crops – generating $235 to $577 billion in agricultural production every year.
A recent study by the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has also shown that losing pollinators would have serious implications for human health. As crop production decreases, people would become more vulnerable to diseases including heart disease and lung cancer.
The granting of the NFU application to use neonics this year would be a dangerous and unnecessary step away from the positive action taken to ban neonics in 2013.