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Closed petition Overturn the decision to allow use of neonicotinoid pesticides on sugar crops

The decision needs to be reversed. The health of our environment must be put first.

More details

Defra has re-authorised the emergency use of thiamethoxam to protect sugar beet crops from the Yellow Virus. However there is widespread evidence of harmful effects of this neonicotinoid on bees and other pollinators, and its use in the European Union is banned for this reason. Bees and other pollinators are vitally important for the UK’s ecosystem, and they are already in decline. The decision needs to be reversed.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 24 May 2023

The Government is committed to implementing policies to encourage sustainable farming and minimise the use of chemical pesticides, while monitoring the development of alternative solutions.

The Government’s first priority with regard to pesticides is to ensure that they will not harm people or pose unacceptable risks to the environment. We remain fully persuaded that the widespread use of neonicotinoids should not be permitted. This emergency authorisation, granted as a seed treatment for the 2023 sugar beet crop, allows a single use of a neonicotinoid on a single crop under very strict conditions to minimise any potential risks to pollinators and the wider environment.

We recognise the potential danger of an outbreak of Yellows Virus on the sugar beet crop and the impact this could have on UK production of sugar. After careful consideration, issuing the emergency authorisation was regarded a necessary measure to protect the crop, given the absence of effective alternative solutions to contain an outbreak. The decision was not taken lightly and was based on thorough assessment of the environmental and economic risks and benefits, having considered advice provided by the Health and Safety Executive and Expert Committee on Pesticides, Defra economists and the Chief Scientific Advisor.

Protecting pollinators is a Government priority. We are already taking action with our partners to implement the provisions of the National Pollinator Strategy, and this year we will publish the National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (NAP). This will set out Defra’s ambition to minimise the risks and impacts of pesticides to the environment and human health, at the core of which will be actions to increase the uptake of integrated pest management (IPM). IPM aims to diversify crop protection and reduce reliance on the use of chemical pesticides by making use of lower risk alternatives and promoting natural processes.

This year the Government has also introduced new funding to support the uptake of integrated pest management approaches within the Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme. As part of the new IPM standard, farmers will be paid to complete an IPM assessment and produce an IPM plan; establish and maintain flower-rich grass margins, blocks, or in-field strips, leading to the creation of habitats for natural predators (including insects and birds) of plant pests; establish a companion crop and to move towards insecticide-free farming.

Looking to the future, the Government is clear that the industry must develop alternative, sustainable approaches to protect sugar beet crops from these viruses.. The development of alternative, sustainable approaches to protect sugar beet crops from these viruses is paramount. This includes the development of resistant plant varieties, measures to improve crop hygiene and husbandry and alternative pesticides. British Sugar and the British Beet Research Organisation are undertaking a programme of work developing these alternatives, which include Yellows Virus specific IPM techniques, and the Government is closely monitoring the progress of this.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Overdue Government response to petition chased by MPs

The Petitions Committee, the group of MPs who consider parliamentary petitions, has written to the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Thérèse Coffey MP, about the overdue Government response to this petition.

In the letter, the Chair of the Petitions Committee Catherine McKinnell MP asks the Government to provide a response to the petition and an explanation for the delay responding by Thursday 1 May.

Government departments are meant to submit responses to petitions within 21 days. A response to this petition was first requested by the Committee on 27 March 2023, but the Government has not yet responded.

Because the response to this petition is now over a month late, the Committee has written to the Government asking them to explain the delay, and to provide their response to this petition.

In the letter, Catherine McKinnell MP highlights how important it is that Government departments provide a timely response to e-petitions that receive over 10,000 signatures.

We will share the Government's explanation for the delay, and their response, with you when we receive this.

Government Minister explains delay in responding to the petition you signed

The Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries, Mark Spencer, has responded to the Petitions Committee's request for an explanation for the delay in responding to the petition you signed.

The Minister said:

"In recent months, Defra has been responding to a large volume of e-petitions, and correspondence. The Department continues to review its processes and endeavours to provide on-time responses to e-petitions in the future."

MPs investigate insect decline and impact on food security

A group of MPs called the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee is looking into insect decline and its impact on UK food security.

Read the Committee's press notice announcing this work.

The Committee is considering points including:
- The current evidence base on insect abundance and diversity in the UK.
- The drivers of insect loss, including the effect of pesticides on pollinators and their predators.
- What can be done to protect insect populations and the additional policy levers that could be used to reverse declines.

What happens next?

The Committee is conducting oral evidence sessions to hear from experts in the sector.

An evidence session is a hearing where MPs ask key experts, such as Ministers, academics and/or campaigners, questions on a particular topic. These experts are called "witnesses" and they help MPs to gain a deeper understanding of the topic.

The Committee will then consider all the evidence it has taken and publish a report of its findings with recommendations to the Government on any changes that might be needed.

For more information about the inquiry, visit the Committee's inquiry page.

What is the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee?

The Science, Innovation and Technology Committee is a cross-party group of MPs that looks into the Government's use of science, technology and research.

Find out more about the committee on its website:

Follow the committee on X, formerly known as Twitter, for updates on its work:

The Science, Innovation and Technology Committee is a select committee. Find out how select committees work:

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MPs debate the environmental impact of neonicotinoids and other pesticides

On Tuesday 5 March, MPs had a debate on the environmental impact of neonicotinoids and other pesticides. The debate was led by Samantha Dixon MP in Westminster Hall.

Our page about the debate includes:

  • Links to watch the full debate or read the transcript
  • Links to parliamentary resources
  • A Westminster Hall debate explainer

Find out more

What is a Westminster Hall debate?

Westminster Hall is the second chamber of the House of Commons. Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local and national issues and receive a response from a government minister. Westminster Hall debates are general debates that do not end in a vote.

Visual explainer: Westminster Hall debates

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