A number of constituents have contacted me regarding the health of British bees. Here is my view:
Honey bees and other pollinating insects play a vital role in our food supply and in sustaining our natural environment. They also make an important economic contribution. The value of bee pollination of commercial crops is estimated at between £120-200 million annually. The UK fruit industry has over 6,000 growers, employs 20,000 people, and grows almost 400,000 tonnes of UK fruit.
I believe it is important that the Government plays it role in helping to tackle the decline in the bee population.
A growing amount of scientific evidence suggests that neo-nicotinoid pesticides are having a negative impact on pollinators, and that the use of these pesticides should be suspended as a precaution. As a result the European Commission proposed an EU-wide moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides linked to the decline of bees. These proposals were in line with a report released by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which concluded these pesticides posed a high risk to bees and other pollinating insects. EU member states failed to reach an agreement on the proposals. The UK Government abstained on the issue. Because member states were unable to reach the qualified majority needed for the proposals to be adopted, the Commission imposed its moratorium, pending further evidence and the UK accepted this.
So at present, the UK has a ban in place, which runs until 2017. There are occasional attempts to seek “emergency” authorisation for certain substances, but none have been accepted in the UK. An application in 2016 from the national Farmers Union was refused.
My colleagues in the Shadow Defra team are continuing to scrutinise the Government’s position. Labour supports a science-led approach to dealing with this issue and I will continue to work with my frontbench colleagues to address the decline in bees. Pesticides are not the sole cause of decline; other causes are habitat loss, disease and climate change; but it is a major concern.
However, I will continue to support the ban and Parliament will, no doubt, expect compelling evidence before any ban is lifted.