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Petition Overturn the decision to allow the use of neonicotinoid pesticides

Defra has granted farmers in England the temporary right to use the insecticide thiamethoxam for a 120-day period to combat a virus in sugar beet. This pesticide is proven to be harmful to bees which are vital pollinators and already suffering population decline. The decision needs to be reversed.

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No one crop is important enough to jeopardise bees, without which our entire food system would be at risk. This pesticide is banned in the EU on the basis of its proven harm to pollinators and to use it even for a short period will contaminate soil and water. Although bees are dormant during winter the 120 day period will include the spring when they emerge to begin foraging.

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Government responded

This response was given on 23 February 2021

The Government will maintain the restrictions on neonicotinoids. This emergency authorisation, similar to other European countries, is for a limited period, for a specific crop with tight controls.

In 2018 the UK Government supported new rules which prohibit the outdoor use of three neonicotinoids: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The Government continues to support those restrictions.

Emergency authorisations for pesticides are only granted in exceptional circumstances where diseases or pests cannot be controlled by any other reasonable means. Emergency authorisations are used by countries across Europe. Pesticides can only be used where we judge there to be no harm to human health and animal health and no unacceptable risks to the environment.

This exceptional use of Syngenta’s Cruiser SB will be strictly controlled and is for the 2021 sugar beet crop in England only. The duration of authorisation is strictly limited to the period required to allow supply of the product. The temporary use of this product is strictly limited to a non-flowering crop and will be tightly controlled to minimise any potential risk to pollinators.

Emerging sugar beet seedlings are vulnerable to predation by aphids which have the potential to spread beet yellows virus. Sugar beet crops have been severely affected and 2020 yields are forecast to be down by 20-25% on previous years. The neonicotinoid Syngenta’s Cruiser SB will provide emergency protection while the beet industry develops alternative solutions. Its exceptional use will be strictly controlled.

Conditions of the authorisation include reduced application rate as well as a prohibition on any flowering crop being planted in the same field where the product has been used within 22 months of sugar beet and a prohibition on oilseed rape being planted with 32 months of sugar beet.

Ten EU countries including Belgium, Denmark and Spain - most EU countries with significant sugar production - have granted emergency authorisations for neonicotinoid seed treatments following the EU-wide ban - backed by the UK (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/environment-secretary-backs-further-restrictions-on-neonicotinoid-pesticides) - coming into force. We now operate an autonomous GB pesticides regime and will continue to ensure that decisions on the use of pesticides are based on careful scientific assessment of the risks, with the aim of achieving a high level of protection for people and the environment. The UK’s approach to the use of emergency authorisations has therefore not changed as a result of the UK’s exit from the EU.

The Government is clear that it is right to minimise the use of pesticides so that pesticides are only applied when necessary. Our 25 Year Environment Plan puts integrated pest management (IPM) at the heart of our approach to support sustainable crop protection with the minimum use of pesticides. We are working to encourage more effective uptake of IPM methods that reduce dependence on pesticides. The Government is currently consulting on the draft National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides which sets out the ambition to further minimise the risks and impacts of pesticides to human health and the environment. The consultation is open until 26 February:
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/sustainable-use-of-pesticides-draft-national-action-plan.

Protecting pollinators continues to be a priority for this Government. The National Pollinator Strategy sets out actions to address key risks to insect populations, such as habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, potential harm from pesticide use and climate change. Through this strategy, we are working with conservation groups, farmers, beekeepers and researchers to improve the status of pollinating insect species in England. For example, we are funding habitat restoration and creation and have introduced systematic monitoring of pollinators across Great Britain. We are also working with partners on species recovery and re-introduction, such as the short-haired bumblebee in Kent.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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