Pesticide linked to bee deaths should be suspended, MPs told

A A A

A new generation of pesticides is implicated in the widespread deaths of bees and other pollinators and should be suspended in Britain while the Government reviews new scientific evidence about their effects, MPs were told yesterday.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are linked by "a growing weight of science" to insect losses, and the assessment regimes for them are inadequate, the Labour MP Martin Caton told the House of Commons.

Mr Caton, MP for Gower, said in an adjournment debate that "alarm bells should be ringing" about neonicotinoids, which are "systemic" insecticides – that is, they are present in every part of treated plants, including the pollen and nectar which bees and other pollinators regularly gather. At the moment, the Government's position is that the compounds are safe when used properly, and there are no restrictions on their UK use – even though they have been banned, in varying degrees, in other countries.

Last week The Independent highlighted new research from the US suggesting that neonicotinoids make honey bees far more vulnerable to diseases, even at doses so tiny that they cannot subsequently be detected.

Mr Caton told MPs that several pieces of fresh research had emerged "which tie the use of neonicotionods into environmental damage to honeybees and wild pollinators". Before that, he said, the invertebrate conservation charity Buglife had produced a review of 100 scientific studies and papers on the subject highlighting the concern.

On the basis of their findings Buglife had called on the Government to reconsider the position of neonicotinoids, and Lord Henley, a minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), had replied that both the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) and the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) had reviewed the Buglife study, although he "did not answer the main thrust of the report".

In fact, Mr Caton told MPs, the ACP had not reviewed the study, and the CRD review of it was not finished. "But we know that Defra, without a completed review of the report, decided not to accept [Buglife's] interpretation of the science, and continued to maintain that we have a robust system of assessing risks from pesticides in the UK," he said. He called on the Food and Farming minister, Jim Paice, who was responding for the Government, to suspend use of neonicotinoids "until the best scientific evidence gives them the all-clear".

The Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, said Defra "seems extraordinarily complacent about the health of bees". She told MPs: "As long ago as 2005, I asked the European Commission to comment on a Defra cut that saw a halving of seasonal bee inspectors. Given that beekeeping contributes over £165m a year to the UK's economy in direct terms, and has an unquantifiable value in terms of the health of our ecological systems, this complacency seems very misplaced."

Mr Paice rejected the charge of complacency, saying the Government took the issue of bee health very seriously, and that he himself had raised it in the House as long ago as 1997. He said the Buglife report had been fully reviewed and advice taken from government agencies, with the conclusion that, as an amalgamation of available evidence, the report did not "raise new issues".

When Mr Caton intervened to say that a review had not, in fact, been fully completed, Mr Paice said: "This is news to me."

He promised to respond in writing to Mr Caton's concerns.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam