The United Kingdom's government has at-long-last responded to the wealth of scientific evidence and backed a "complete and permanent" ban on all bee-harming pesticides across the country. Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he was "deeply concerned" by a recent study which indicated that the risk to bees and other insects was much "greater than previously understood."
Writing in the Guardian, Gove insists the evidence base has "grown" – and that the UK will now back proposals by the European Commission for a total ban on these harmful pesticides. He said:
"While there is still uncertainty in the science, it is increasingly pointing in one direction. Not to act would be to risk continuing down a course which could have extensive and permanent effects on bee populations. That is not a risk I am prepared to take."
Gove claims the UK will now support "restrictions on neonicotinoids" and "unless the evidence base changes" continue with the ban even after we have left the EU. He added that bees and other pollinators were "absolutely critical" to the natural world, citing a recent study that revealed 75% of flying insects in Germany had disappeared.
Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett has hailed the move as "a significant victory," saying "Michael Gove is to be congratulated for listening to the experts." He said:
"The scientific evidence for a complete ban on bee-harming pesticides is now overwhelming, tougher restrictions on neonicotinoids are essential for our precious bees and environment."
Bennett said that although "to their credit" some farmers had already distanced themselves from neonicotinoids, lessons need to be rolled out across the board: "We now need to move away from chemical-intensive farming and boost support for less damaging ways of tackling persistent weeds and pests."
Last month, scientists tested 198 samples and found that three-quarters of the honey produced around the world contain nerve agent pesticides that can harm bees.