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Bees At Risk As England Allows Use of Banned Pesticide

By allowing the use of the illegal chemical thiamethoxam on sugar beet in England in 2022, the government has once again put bees in jeopardy.

Chintu Das
Bee Polination
Bee Polination

Because of a virus that damages sugar beets, emergency use of a product containing the chemical  thiamethoxam has been approved in England. Despite expert advisors' findings that pesticide contamination would harm river life and that the pesticide's usage conditions had not been followed, the decision was made. 

Environment Secretary George Eustice, on the other hand, stated that product usage will be "limited and controlled." Because of the considerable harm that the pesticide might do to bees, the EU and the UK imposed a near-total ban in 2018. Charities and advocacy organisations are outraged that the drug has been licensed for usage. 

Yellow Virus 

Eustice, as part of the government's decision, stated that thiamethoxam could only be used once a viral threshold was achieved, ensuring that it would only be used "if required." 

Because of the threat presented by yellow virus, British Sugar was successful in obtaining an exception to enable the illegal pesticide to be used in England this year. Last year, there was controversy when ministers allowed farmers permission to apply the pesticide, despite the fact that it was never utilised due to the severe winter. 

According to scientific research, the usage of these pesticides has resulted in a decrease in the number of honeybees, wild bees, and other pollinating animals. 

Michael Gove, the environment secretary at the time, said the UK supported the ban because it couldn't "afford to put our pollinator populations at danger." 

Farmers will be prohibited from cultivating flowering plants for 32 months following the sugar beet crop, according to George Eustice. He did agree, though, that "totally ruling out a degree of damage to bees" was impossible. 

'Promises Betrayed' 

Environmental organisations have slammed the decision. Stephanie Morren, RSPB senior policy officer, claims that without bees, the "agricultural system will collapse." 

"The nature we love is in decline across England; even the humming of bees in our farmlands and countryside is growing quieter by the year." 

Buglife CEO Matt Shardlow called it "shameful" that no action had been done to ensure that "bee and animal damaging insecticides are appropriately assessed as pollinator friendly." 

The action, according to Joan Edwards, head of policy and public affairs at The Wildlife Trusts, is a "clear breach of pledges" made to safeguard the environment. 

Sandra Bell of Friends of the Earth criticised the decision for going "against the advice" of their own experts. 

The decision was made "based on strong scientific evaluation," according to a representative for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. 

"We carefully assess the dangers and only issue temporary emergency pesticide authorizations in exceptional cases when severe conditions are satisfied." 

Significance Of Bees

In 2021, according to Milan Wiercx van Rhijn of the charity Bees for Development, insects will play a critical part in the food chain, with about a third of the food we consume reliant on pollination by bees. 

"If we kill the insects at the bottom of the food chain, we'll kill the creatures higher up," he continues. 

"It's difficult to estimate how big of an effect it will have on us." Alternative techniques, he claims, must be discovered. 

"Agriculture needs to be regenerative, and we can't keep destroying the ecology on which we rely." 

"Future generations will be astounded that we ever contemplated utilising these chemicals - we can already see the devastating impact on insects and biodiversity." 

He recommends a greater emphasis on "strong, robust bio-abundance," which he defines as "allowing things to flourish naturally rather than chopping them down." 

"Keep your flowers blooming in the spring so pollinators have something to eat." 

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