Press release

Lawyers prompt UK environmental watchdog to investigate bee-threatening pesticides

8 July 2024 

The Office for Environmental Protection has announced it is investigating the UK government’s repeated authorisation of a pesticide that may have harmful effects on pollinators and the wider environment, following a warning from ClientEarth lawyers.

The investigation – opened on 14 June – will look at whether the government breached existing environmental law when in 2023 and 2024 it approved a pesticide that has been linked to potentially negative impacts on honey bees and waterways. 

ClientEarth first raised the issue with the watchdog in November last year when the organisation’s lawyers filed an official complaint over the governmental approval of Cruiser SB – a pesticide which contains thiamethoxam, which has the potential to cause  harm to pollinators. [1]

ClientEarth Head of UK Kyle Lischak said: 

“This is a very welcome first step from the UK’s environmental watchdog, given the urgent need to restore our nature and rein in the extensive use of potentially harmful pesticides in England. 

“For four consecutive years, the UK government has given this neonicotinoid pesticide the green light for widespread ‘emergency use’ - bypassing the existing laws that are designed to protect our environment. 

“Failing to take a proper precautionary approach when approving the use of pesticides is threatening our pollinators and the wider environment – and puts England even further off-track from meeting its 2030 biodiversity targets.

“This investigation also sends an important signal to government and other decision-makers: laws that protect nature – such as the Habitat Regulations – have to go beyond planning decisions and include other activities that could threaten nature.  

“And while this investigation is underway, we are calling on the new Government to support UK farmers to adopt sustainable methods of pest control that work with nature, rather than putting it at risk – as they are the custodians of so much of England’s natural environment.”

The health of bees and other pollinators underpins our environment and our food systems, and experts have warned their wellbeing and survival is at risk with the use of neonicotinoids.

According to a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report, even at non-lethal doses, exposure to thiamethoxam may jeopardise pollinators’ ability to forage and navigate and potentially cause “a reduction in survival of honey bees”. [2] 

Neonicotinoid pesticides can stay active in affected soil for years and a recent study has shown they also leach into rivers. Data gathered by the Environment Agency shows that more than one in 10 English rivers now contain neonicotinoid pesticides, with many of these at levels which are considered unsafe for some aquatic life. [3]

ClientEarth made separate requests to engage with the department on its decision but did not receive a response to their concerns – so the matter was escalated as a complaint to the Office of Environmental Protection. 


Notes to editors:

[1] ClientEarth’s full statement at the time of filing its OEP complaint is available at: 

[2] The Health and Safety Executive’s emergency registration for the use of Cruiser SB on the 2023 sugar beet crop is available at: Cruiser SB emergency registration report - GOV.UK ( 

[3] The Rivers Trust and Wildlife and Countryside Link conducted analysis of neonicotinoid pesticides using official Environment Agency data from 2020 to 2022 and found that 1 or more of 5 harmful neonicotinoids analysed were found in more than 1 in 10 English river sites tested by Environment Agency: Bee-killing pesticides found at wildlife-threatening levels in rivers around the country ( 

About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.