The government has given the go-ahead for the use of neonicotinoids raising questions about the UK’s environmental commitments outside the EU.
The UK has granted “emergency authorisation” for the use of a neonicotinoid pesticide on sugar beet seed.
The use of neonicotinoids is banned in the EU because the chemicals can be deadly to bees.
A 2018 report by the European Food Safety Agency was categorical that “neonicotinoid pesticides represent a risk to wild bees and honeybees”.
Concerns were first raised by EFSA almost a decade ago. The first, provisional, bans were introduced by the European Commission in 2013.
But there have been exceptions.
As a member of the European Union, the UK continued to use opt outs to allow some use of neonicotinoids.
And they weren’t alone. A group of around 10 member states did the same for the 2020 sugar beet growing season.
The European Commission is now examining whether it can clamp down on these exceptions.
But the UK is no longer within its control having left the European Union.
The decision to grant the use of neonicotinoids on sugar beet seed for 2021 will only apply in England.
The government says the decision was made following an analysis of the benefits verus the risks.
Wildflowers will be sprayed with herbicide to discourage bees from the area.
“The applicant recognised that risks could be posed to bees from flowering weeds in and around the crop and proposed to address this with the use of industry-recommended herbicide programmes to minimise the number of flowering weeds in treated sugar beet crops. This was considered to be acceptable.”
According to Friends of the Earth other countries like Germany and Denmark are increasingly growing sugar beet successfully organically, without the use of pesticides.
Now the UK is outside the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, will farmers go greener or is the use of neonicotinoids again this year a sign of where the UK is headed?
The government is keen to assure that the authorisation is for “sugar beet only and covers use in 2021 in England only”.
However, the same assessment states that “neonicotinoid seed treatments may be needed for three years”.
“Any future applications will be fully assessed against the regulatory framework for emergency authorisations.”