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Michael McCarthy: Refusal to heed scientists' warnings is indefensible

It is 50 years since the American biologist Rachel Carson began the global environmental movement with the publication of Silent Spring, her searing indictment of the US pesticide industry. In it she described the devastating effect on wildlife caused by the indiscriminate spraying of products such as DDT.

Her book set off explosions: an explosion of public concern, on the one hand, and an explosion of denial and obfuscation, on the other, by the chemical manufacturers – and, initially, by the US government.

As with Carson's chlorinated hydrocarbons then, so now with our neonicotinoids: there is so much money at stake that those with a vested interest in these products will fight tooth and nail to continue their use, despite the rapidly growing evidence that they are causing massive harm to pollinating insects, whose value to us is beyond price.

With the manufacturers you can understand it: it's their bottom line, after all. But the British Government's cloth-eared refusal to heed the warnings about neonicotinoids from scientists around the world is looking every day more pathetic and indefensible.