ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners welcomed the government’s announcement yesterday that it will ban a certain type of pesticide to save bees but warned it against “repeating past mistakes” by the use of other harmful chemicals.
Neonicotinoids, which present a risk to honey bees, have been banned for use on crops such as the bright yellow oilseed rape plant by the European Union since 2013.
The EU Commission has since proposed restricting the use of three neonicotinoids to plants in greenhouses, which would extend the ban to crops such as sugar beet and some cereals.
In a reversal of the previous position held by his department, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said new evidence indicated that the risk to bees and other insects from the chemicals was “greater than previously understood.”
Britain will now support a total EU-wide ban on bee-harming pesticides in the countryside, a position it will maintain after leaving the bloc.
Mr Gove claimed he wanted to see a “green Brexit” in which environmental standards were improved, but the decision appears to have been taken on purely economical grounds as he described bees as a “key part in our £100 billion food industry.”
However, they are also a key part of wildlife food chains and environmental campaigners fear that farmers may use other harmful chemicals instead.
Professor Dave Goulson, of the University of Sussex, said: “If the pesticide industry simply replace neonicotinoids with some new generation of pesticides, we will not have made progress but will simply be repeating mistakes we have made over and over again for 70 years.”
Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett welcomed the decision, but said: “We now need to move away from chemical-intensive farming and instead boost support for less damaging ways of tackling persistent weeds and pests.”