[17/11/17] After longstanding support for the controversial chemicals, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has recently agreed that neonicotinoid pesticides should be banned. This is welcome news as Bees and other pollinators, which are vital to three-quarters of the world’s food crops, have been in overall decline since 1987.
Gove’s decision follows new research highlighting that damage of neonicotinoids is greater than previously thought. Last month, a scientific investigation analysed almost 200 honey samples produced in every continent, excluding Antarctica, and found three quarters of the samples contained significant quantities of the toxic insecticides. These findings support earlier research studies, which concluded that widespread neonicotinoid use jeopardises global food production.
Economically, the pollinators are also extremely important to the UK’s £100 billion food industry, contributing £400-£680 million each year to agricultural productivity. In an article written for the Guardian, to announce the UK’s renewed stance against neonicotinoids, Michael Gove reported that Gala apple growers are spending £5.7 million a year to compensate for the work which a natural pollinator should be doing. It is pleasing to read that Gove also stated that a post-Brexit subsidy system would reward more environmentally sustainable methods of farming.
The pesticides are used by approximately two thirds of arable farmers. However, some growers have contested that a ban would have a serious effect on the productivity of their business. For example, the cultivated area of oilseed rape, in the UK has declined since restrictions started in 2013 and reports also suggest that a neonicotinoid ban may encourage other pesticides to be overused, potentially allowing pests to develop resistance to them. Nevertheless, without a healthy pollinator population we are ultimately threatening the long-term global ecological balance. Therefore, a solution needs to be found that helps to support a sustainable and productive cropping system.
An EU vote on the outcome for the pesticides will take place in December, where it is hoped the UK’s change in position will enforce a ban on neonicotinoids in the EU and prompt similar action across the globe.
We are delighted with the government’s change in position, on the use of chemicals which are having such devastating impacts on global biodiversity and sustainable development.