A BEE-KILLING pesticide which is banned in the EU could soon be used in the UK, the Westminster Government says.
Environmental groups have reacted with fury, arguing that the Government should be acting to save bees during the current biodiversity crisis.
Bees, which are essential to the world’s ecosystems, are under pressure around the world from habitat loss and pesticide use.
According to a 2019 analysis of 700,000 naturalist records, a third of wild bee and hoverfly species are in decline across Britain.
In November the UK Government launched its Healthy Bees Plan 2030, aiming to “protect and improve the health of honey bees in England and Wales”.
Now, Environment Secretary George Eustice has agreed to allow a product containing neonicotinoid thiamethoxam to be used this year.
The product would be used to treat sugar beet, a crop at risk from a virus which last year significantly reduced yields. The department is concerned conditions this year could lead to a similar outcome.
According to officials the minister has agreed to an emergency authorisation of the pesticide for “limited and controlled use” up to 120 days.
Responding, the Wildlife Trusts commented: “Bad news for bees: The Government has bowed to pressure from the National Farmers Union to agree the use of a highly damaging pesticide.
“The Government know the clear harm that neonicotinoid pesticides cause to bees and other pollinators and just three years ago supported restrictions on them across the European Union.
“Insects perform vital roles such as pollination of crops and wildflowers, and nutrient recycling, but so many have suffered drastic declines.”
They added: “We need urgent action to restore the abundance of our insect populations, not broken promises that make the ecological crisis even worse.”
Last month it emerged that the National Farmers’ Union had organised a letter to Eustice from its members, calling on him to allow the use of neonicotinoid Cruiser SB in England this spring.
The union’s sugar board chairman, Michael Sly, said the pesticide would only be used in a limited and controlled way – and when the scientific threshold has been independently met.
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He said: “Virus yellows disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain’s sugar beet crop, with some growers experiencing yield losses of up to 80 per cent, and this authorisation is desperately needed to fight this disease.
“It will be crucial in ensuring that Britain’s sugar beet growers continue to have viable farm businesses.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Emergency authorisations for pesticides are only granted in exceptional circumstances where diseases or pests cannot be controlled by any other reasonable means. Emergency authorisations are used by countries across Europe.
“Pesticides can only be used where we judge there to be no harm to human health and animal health, and no unacceptable risks to the environment. The temporary use of this product is strictly limited to a non-flowering crop and will be tightly controlled to minimise any potential risk to pollinators.”