WILDLIFE: Somerset beekeeper condemns NFU support for bee-killers

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A Somerset beekeeper has challenged farming-lobby attempts to “spin” government-funded research findings that bees are killed by insecticides.

Newly published research from a former government agency has proved that the use of neonicotinoids (“neonics”) has led to the loss of bee colonies: but the government has bowed to lobbying from the farming and chemicals industry and agreed to a partial UK lifting of a European ban on these insecticides.

Environment Secretary, Liz Truss, announced the decision - taken behind closed doors and against the advice of government advisers - after Parliament had gone into its summer recess.

As reported in the Western Morning News (24th August), the National Farmers’ Union contends that the research shows that the use of “neonics” reduces the need for other insecticides to protect such crops as oil-seed rape.

According to David Sturgess, who keeps bee hives in Somerset: “This is the ultimate example of a ‘dodgy-dossier’. The NFU cannot contradict the scientific finding that ‘neonics’ kill our already endangered bees, so they’ve hidden behind the suggestion that the use of ‘neonics’ reduces their need to spray yet more insecticides.

“This assumes that we’re all stupid, and can be easily duped”, said Mr Sturgess.

“It’s a simple fact that the latest issue of Nature journal, Scientific Reports, has published the research from Fera Science Ltd, formerly the Government’s Food and Environmental Research Agency - now a joint public-private sector partnership. That research, conducted over eleven years, proves that the use of ‘neonics’ led to the killing of honey-bee colonies”, he said.

Since the EU instituted a ban on ‘neonics’, ten independent studies and reviews have added to the evidence that these chemicals harm wild bees: the newly published research demonstrates that hive-bees are also killed by the use of these chemicals.

“The NFU and DEFRA have both responded to the horrified reaction of those who recognise the crucial role of our threatened bee population by hiding behind the secondary finding of the research that the use of ‘neonics’ reduces the need for farmers to spray yet more insecticides on their oil-seed rape crops”, said Mr Sturgess.

“I ask two simple questions: is oil-seed rape more important than the vital pollinators for all the nation’s other crops; and are our farmers so poor at their job that they have to rely on lethal sprays?” he added.