The evidence has been mounting for some time now that neonicotinoid pesticides are killing bees. Temporary bans on these insecticides have lead to a rebound in bee numbers. And millions of people have called for a ban on neonicotinoids in an effort to save the pollinators we rely on for survival.
And yet pesticide makers and politicians continue to drag their feet.The latest depressing news on this front, reported over at The Guardian, is that UK environment secretary Own Paterson looks set to scupper a Europe-wide ban on neonicotinoids, along with allies in Germany and Spain who are opposing the deal:
The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, appears set to defy public and political pressure by scuppering a proposed Europe-wide suspension of three pesticides linked to serious harm in bees. Almost three-quarters of the UK public backs the ban, according to a poll released on Wednesday, but the UK is not currently expected to support the measure when the European commission (EC) votes on it on Friday, leaving it little chance of being passed.
There is still hope, however. Campaigners, including Buglife - The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, are mounting a massive campaign to pressure the UK government to support the neonicotinoid ban this Friday. Organic farming charity The Soil Association is also asking its supporters to email Owen Patterson, arguing that neonicotinoid seed insecticides represent a dangerous escalation of pesticide use:
Before seed-based, systemic insecticides were available, farmers had to take a decision to spray crops like oil seed rape when insect pests reached a level which was going to cause economic damage to the crop. Insecticide was then generally sprayed only when necessary. Insecticide sprays which are not systemic only remain active for a short period of time, and when sprays were applied in this way, there was a well-established system of farmers warning bee-keepers, so that bee-keepers could try to ensure bees were not flying when nearby oil seed rape crops were toxic to them.
Here's hoping that Ministers do the right thing on Friday. If ever there was a case for the precautionary principle, it's in protecting the insects that make farming possible.