August 2015 Update re Emergency authorisation for two neonicotinoids

Thank you for contacting me about the decision to grant an emergency authorisation for two neonicotinoids to treat oil seed rape crops.

The Expert Committee on Pesticides recommended that an application for these treatments should be approved, covering no more than 5 per cent of the national crop and only on seeds to be sown this summer and autumn.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has applied the EU’s precautionary ban on the use of neonicotinoids in full, and makes decisions on pesticides only once the regulators are satisfied they are safe to people and the environment. Based on the evidence, it has followed the advice of the Expert Committee and the Defra Chief Scientist that this limited authorisation should be granted to cover areas where crops are at the greatest risk of damage by pests.

The facility to allow strictly controlled, targeted uses of pesticides under an emergency authorisation is an integral feature of precautionary bans. The Committee had recommended rejecting an earlier application because the proposed use was not targeted closely enough at areas in the greatest need, but concluded that this revised application was sufficiently controlled and limited to warrant approval. The UK’s approach stands in contrast to other EU countries such as Denmark, which has issued unrestricted emergency authorisations for the same use of neonicotinoids.

Bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our natural environment. I welcome the work the Government has done over the last few years to understand and protect them, most recently through the National Pollinator Strategy. It will contribute fully to the European Commission review of the evidence about the impact of neonicotinoids.

Alistair says:

‘I take this issue very seriously. I support the present precautionary ban, as evidence is gathered on bees and neonicotinoids, but this relaxation is very slight and designed to protect crops at risk. This does not seem to me to be unreasonable. However it is important that the science on which the decision is based is made available to the public and my constituents who are asking, and I am making representations directly to the Government to seek this. Government has no vested interest in doing anything other than provide best protection for bees and crops.’

June 2015

Thank you for contacting me about neonicotinoid insecticides and bees. As a Vice President of Bedfordshire Beekeepers Association I am aware of the importance of this issue.

I entirely agree with you that bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our natural environment. I welcome the work the Government has done over the last few years to understand and protect them, most recently through the National Pollinator Strategy.

I have been assured that the Government is keeping evidence on neonicotinoids under close, open-minded scrutiny and will restrict their usage if the evidence shows the need. However, like a number of other EU governments it does not consider that the scientific evidence supports the recent Europe-wide restrictions.

Its current assessment suggests that, while we cannot exclude the possibility of neonicotinoids affecting bees in the field, this not normally likely to occur and so the risk to bee populations is low. That is why I take the view that the Commission's response is neither sensible nor proportionate.

The European Commission has given an assurance that further field research can be done, and this is welcome because, as everyone interested in this issue has acknowledged, the evidence is incomplete. The Government is therefore leading further work to clarify this issue, which will form part of the Commission’s review of this decision in 2015. 

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.