Beekeepers and their supporters gathered in Parliament Square today to urge the Government to support an EU-wide ban on certain pesticides.
The demonstration came ahead of a vote in Brussels on Monday which will decide whether Europe introduces a two-year moratorium on various neonicotinoid pesticides.
One of the organisers, Matt Shardlow, chief executive of nature conservation organisation Buglife, said: “Britain abstained last time and has made no commitment this time, but we want them to support a ban across Europe. Some 73% of the British public support a ban on these insecticides, we want the Government to follow their lead.”
He said that even if the vote was lost, he was hopeful that there may be other ways forward as the European Commission has a legal responsibility to protect the environment.
One of the protesters, biological research graduate Robert Mitton, 28, from Ealing, west London, said: “They started using these pesticides in the 90s. Since then there has been a rapid decline in the abundance and diversity of bee species globally.
”There is a mounting body of scientific evidence that these pesticides are having sub lethal effects and in effect making the bees sick. They can make them forget things, such as which flowers are rewarding to them, and impair their ability to reproduce, affecting their long-term survival.
“Bees are responsible for a large proportion of the world's pollination, they are very important economically as well as ecologically.
”I would see a two-year moratorium as a start. If it came into effect, we would see bee species start to recover, and would then need to extend the ban further.“
Beekeepers dressed in their protective costumes for the protest and many protesters wore brightly coloured striped clothing.
Other groups involved with organising the event included Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, RSPB, and the Soil Association.
Organisers said dress designers Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett had handed a petition at 10 Downing Street in support of their aims.
Friends of the Earth's head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: ”Ministers can't ignore the growing scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid insecticides to bee decline. Their claims to be concerned about bee health will ring hollow if they fail to back European moves to restrict the use of these chemicals.
“An ever-growing number of the UK's leading retailers and manufacturers are recognising the threat these products pose by removing them from their shelves and supply chains - the Government must now act.
”If we lose our bees and other vital pollinators it will have a devastating impact on our food, gardens and environment. We urgently need tougher pesticide restrictions and a British Bee Action Plan to tackle all the threats they face.“