On Thursday members of the European Parliament Environmental Committee will be asked to vote to allow farmers to continue using Neonicotinoids on food crops. The ban on their use on flowering crops has been in place since 2013. However, the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) found in 2016 that use of the pesticides on all crops poses a high risk to bees. As a result, the European commission has proposed a ban on all uses outside greenhouses. However Conservative MEP Julie Girling wants to block the full ban and so she has called for this process to be stopped. Julie Girling who is a member of the Environmental Committee and who before her election as MEP was the Gloucestershire County Council Cabinet Member for the Environment represents the South West region of the UK and stated “I just happen to agree with them [pesticide industry] on this issue. I believe that the sustainable use of pesticides is a vital part of providing safe and affordable food production.” There are other people arguing in support of her cause. Graeme Taylor, the Director of Public Affairs in the European Crop Protection Association, said: “The size of the toolbox available to farmers to allow them to produce is being constantly depleted by decisions that are based on fear and misinformation rather than fact, and without consideration of the consequences for European agriculture.” Bayer, the company that manufactures the pesticide has a glossy superficial website page that claims that Bees are not impacted by Neonicotinoids. On the other hand the Soil Association has a detailed paper which suggests the opposite. It seems vital that decisions are taken as Graeme Taylor suggests based on fact, not on misinformation. Fear is certainly not a good basis for decision making, whichever side of the argument one is looking at. Fear of bees dying out vs fear of food supplies diminishing or of farmers losing turnover is not really a basis for a decision, particularly as the loss of either bees or crops will lead to the loss of the other in due course and both will ultimately lead to an end of farming.
The decision to carry on spraying field with Neonicotinoids which are still relatively new products before we have sufficient facts and information as Graeme Taylor implies seems to be the mistaken approach. Let us hope that members of the Committee such as Keith Taylor and Catherine Bearder will both be at the meeting and will vote to ensure we do ban Neonicotinoids from all outdoor use until such time as there is evidence that they won’t threaten the bee population that is already in a threatened state.