A petition urging the Government to overturn its decision to allow the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on sugar crops – which is lethal to bees – has now been signed by over 15,000 people, and garnered the support of several world-leading academics.
Ahead of this World Earth Day on 22 April, the public is being urged to add their voices to the campaign. If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures it will automatically trigger a debate on overturning the decision – which could save billions of bees.
The campaign is spearheaded by Ana Attlee and Emily Lambert, creators of Seedball, a company on a mission to re-wild the UK and inspire people to plant more native wildflowers, increasing populations of bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Research shows that just one teaspoon of neonicotinoid pesticide is enough to provide a lethal dose to 1.25 billion bees – but the Government has sanctioned its use for the third year running, going against the explicit advice of the UK Committee on Pesticides.
It has also been estimated that the value of pollinators to UK farmers is worth a minimum of £630 million every year, in research led by Professor Simon Potts. His work shows that, with some vital pollinators seeing a dramatic decline, it will not only affect the UK’s food crop production, it will also impact secure resources for future generations.
Professor Dave Goulson has added his voice to those who are urging the Government to reconsider their decision – one which could impact the future of bees and other pollinators for generations to come.
He said: “For three years in a row our government has granted farmers special permission to use banned neonicotinoid pesticides on sugar beet. This is contrary to the expert advice of their own Expert Committee on Pesticides, who specifically recommended that permission should not be granted. It also flies in the face of a huge body of scientific evidence showing that these chemicals are phenomenally toxic to all insect life, and that their use on any crop contaminates soils, hedgerow plants, and nearby streams and ponds for years to come.
“We are in a crisis, with insect populations in freefall. It is about time our government woke up to this, and acted accordingly. This petition is a necessary means of holding the government to account. Please sign and share as signing will ensure the issue is debated in Parliament.”
The emergency authorisation of Thiamethoxam allows “seed-dressing” of sugar beet crops with neonicotinoids in circumstances where there is a 65 per cent and over risk of a yellow virus infection. The virus is caused by aphids that the pesticide targets. The purpose of the authorisation is to protect sugar beet yield and quality – against the backdrop of an obesity and diabetes epidemic.
At a time when the UK’s flying insect populations are reducing by 34 per cent every decade (Buglife 2021), the petition calls on the Government to do a better job to prioritise nature.
In December 2022, the UK Government advocated for an ambitious global pesticide reduction target at the UN COP15 biodiversity conference, yet has failed to achieve this in the UK. In contrast, the European Union has maintained its strict ban of neonicotinoid pesticides, with any emergency use applications rejected due to the extent of their toxicity.
Rev Professor Jasper Kenter, Aberystwyth Business School, Aberystwyth University said: “The repeated lifting of a ban on extremely harmful neonicotinoid pesticides by the UK Government is doing untold damage to insects in the UK. It is short-sighted and not backed by evidence. The ecological, economic, and cultural value of protecting insect population is far greater than any short-term profits from allowing these pesticides. By signing this petition, we can force a debate on this issue and make sure these pesticides are banned again next year.”
Emily from Seedball said: “It takes just a couple of minutes to sign the petition and add your voice to thousands of others who are outraged that the Government has taken such a drastic step – one it has been repeatedly warned not to take.
“We are creating a task force of like-minded people and urging them to please sign the petition and share it across their networks – whether that’s social media, on websites, or just by telling your friends. It’s a way we can genuinely make a difference to the future of our planet.”
The petition can be found here.