'Bee-killing pesticides' to be used in Herts

PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 August 2015

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Local campaigners have swarmed to attack a government decision to allow the use of pesticides which are allegedly harmful to bees.

The chemicals - known as neonicotinoids - have been banned by the EU since 2013, but will be permitted in England on an area of 74,000 acres - five per cent of the country’s rapeseed crops - including fields in Herts.

A European Food Safety Authority study claimed the pesticides had “chronic effects on bee colony survival and development”, but the UK government said this was not backed up by wider evidence and supported a partial lifting of the ban following pressure by the National Farmers’ Union.

A petition on campaign website 38 Degrees to uphold the ban has been signed by more than half a million people who say the chemicals pose a serious risk to our bee population and other wildlife.

Many local residents have called on St Albans MP Anne Main to force a debate on the issue, and contacted the Herts Advertiser in their droves to raise awareness of the issue.

Diane Whiskin, from Crown Street, Redbourn, asked: “Are your readers aware that the government is planning to allow pesticides that are harmful to bees to be used in Hertfordshire despite the fact that a record rape seed harvest is expected this year without the use of these pesticides?

“This short-sighted policy could devastate the bee population. Fewer bees means fewer insects to pollinate our crops. We need to lobby government to overturn this policy before it is too late.”

Sharon Hollingworth, of Marshalswick Lane, said: “Can you please bring to the attention of your readers the very dangerous situation our county is in by the reckless decision of the environment minister Liz Truss to allow the use of bee-killing pesticides in Hertfordshire?”

Zara-Jane Gordon, from House Lane, Sandridge, said: “I’m very discouraged to read Liz Truss is proposing to allow the use of pesticides that are a danger to bees. We need bees to survive and we need to protect them, not allow chemical companies to produce neonicotinoids to destroy them. They’re an integral part of our environment - like the Green Belt land the government is allowing to be built on - we’ve got to stop this destruction of our natural world.”

Alan Simmons, of Oxford Avenue, St Albans, said: “The decline of all our wildlife species is tragic. Bees, in particular, are a vital part of our ecosystem - not to mention our economy.

“As the urban areas of Hertfordshire spread, year on year, we must persuade our local and national politicians that what remains of the beautiful fields and woods around us need protecting. Pollination is the only guarantee that species of plants thrive and survive and, consequently, that the food chain of birds and animals is maintained.

“Pesticides are indiscriminate. They not only kill bees but the insects which are the food of valuable other wildlife. It’s high time to stop their use before more damage is done to our valuable countryside.”

In response to the controversy, Anne Main responded: “This is a highly emotive issue and I have been listening intently to both sides of the debate. As you may already know, I am a strong supporter of protecting our bees, and their diversity. I was a vocal proponent of the national pollinator strategy launched in November last year, which was a welcomed step in protecting pollinating insect species, such as our bees.

“I am a great believer in evidence-based approach. I have visited farms in the constituency and spoken to farmers across Hertfordshire who, I was shocked to learn, have suffered greatly and lost thousands of pounds of crops due to pests such as the cabbage flee beetle. These have been found to be resistant to pyrethroid sprays. Moreover, I am acutely aware of concerns about neonicotinoids (neonics) and their potential harm on free-living bumblebee colonies.”

She said she had also contacted Rothamsted Research Centre in Harpenden, which undertakes high-level, cutting edge research into insecticides and their impact on our environment, and contacted both the environment audit committee and the EFRA select committee, urging them to assess the issue.

Mrs Main added: “Bee decline is an international issue and there are a variety of issues affecting their numbers including the presence of the Varroa Mite which is leading colony collapse. We must ensure that this is dealt with effectively to maintain our bee population. I believe the Government should be investigating what more can be done to help our wildlife and farmers. If the neonicotinoids ban needs to continue then we also need to be looking at other ways to tackle the problem facing farmers.”

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