The Wildlife Trusts petition calling on the Prime Minister to revoke the emergency permit for a bee-killing pesticide, thiamethoxam, has garnered tens of thousands of signatures. In addition, 645 MPs have been contacted by petitioners as public concerns about the threats to bees, wildflowers, wildlife in the river and the impact on the soil grow.
Thiamethoxam is a neonicotinoid known to kill bees. However, farmers in England were allowed to use it on sugar beet this year. It was banned across the EU in 2018 because it causes widespread damage, although some exceptions were allowed.
Foreign Secretary George Eustice took the decision on Jan. 8 in response to the problems the sugar beet virus is causing among farmers who grow sugar beet – although a similar application was rejected in 2018 by the UK Committee of Experts on Pesticides for “unacceptable environmental risks.” “
White-tailed Bumblebee, Copyright Tony Davison, from the Surfbirds Galleries
The government’s decision was based on the assumption that the risks to bees are acceptable since sugar beet is a non-flowering crop. However, the UK Committee of Experts on Pesticides has raised significant concerns about the use of neonicotinoids to treat sugar beet, including:
- Thiamethoxam persists in soils, which can create residues that pose potentially unacceptable risks to bees and other pollinators when following crops and flowering plants in field margins.
- The published literature on the effects of neonicotinoid chemicals on bees and other pollinators was not considered in assessing the risks to bees.
- The pesticide could find its way into rivers and streams and damage the freshwater world.
Only 5% of the pesticide ends up in the crop where it is wanted. Most accumulate in the soil, from where they can be picked up by the roots of wildflowers and hedge plants – or spread out in freshwater streams, ditches, and rivers. Over 3,800 invertebrate species in the UK spend at least part of their life cycle in freshwater and play an important role in maintaining clean water: they help break down and filter organic matter and provide a source of food for fish, birds and mammals. Without them, freshwater wildlife cannot survive.
The government has stated that if the plants absorb the neon and pass it on to bees and other insects, weed killers must be used around crops to kill wildflowers. This means more bad news for wild plants at a time when they are rapidly disappearing from the farm landscape and the wider landscape.
Neonics have also been shown to be very persistent in the environment, appearing in soils five years or more after their last use. Once in woody plants such as flowering hedges, they will persist for years. Based on all of this evidence, the European Food Standards Agency concluded that these chemicals are not safe to use.
Wild LIVE: The Return of Bee Killing Pesticides?
Find out about our newest Wild LIVE. We’re debating whether we’ll see the onset of backward slipping after the government decided to issue an emergency exemption to allow use of the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam. Shouldn’t we be looking for new innovative solutions?