Leading article: Crisis in the bee population is too serious to ignore

Twice in the past three years, the Government has been asked, on the basis of compelling evidence, to suspend the use of the new generation of neonicotinoid pesticides, until the increasingly worrying evidence that they are extremely harmful to bees and other pollinating insects has been shown to be unfounded.

The first occasion was in 2009, by a coalition of environmental groups led by Buglife, the invertebrate conservation charity; the second was in 2011 by the Labour MP Martin Caton, after this paper's disclosure that America's leading bee scientist had found a harmful link.

On each occasion the request was ignored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Today we report new findings that show that declines in bee colonies may be caused by a new generation of nerve-agent pesticides. Defra ministers and officials cannot afford to brush aside the matter again.

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