Earlier this month Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, announced his support for further restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Mr Gove pointed to the growing weight of scientific evidence which suggests that these pesticides are harmful to bees and other pollinators, as well as the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides’ advice that the environmental risks posed by neonicotinoids is greater than previously understood.
Since December 2013, the EU has banned the use of three neonicotinoids on a number of crops attractive to bees, such as oilseed rape. The European Commission has proposed restricting these same three neonicotinoids to only allow their use on plants in greenhouses. Mr Gove has confirmed the UK’s support for these further restrictions and said that unless the scientific evidence changes, the government will maintain these increased restrictions post-Brexit. Should this proposal be adopted, the UK would have the right to consider emergency authorisations. We would only do so in exceptional circumstances where there is a real need for the products and the risk to bees and other pollinators is sufficiently low.
I receive a large volume of correspondence on the danger of pesticides to bees and other pollinators. We should not underestimate the significance of these pollinators and research suggests that their value to our crops if £400-680 million a year.
I am also aware of the concerns of farmers, including many in my constituency, about how they will be impacted by this change. I was therefore reassured to hear directly from Mr Gove at a meeting that he is keen to work with farmers to explore alternative approaches, including considering limited exemptions, both now and as we design a new agricultural policy outside the European Union. It is important that all decisions are based on evidence and scientific research and I look forward to continuing to work with the department on this and other environmental and farming issues that are consistently top concerns of my constituents.