The UK government has authorized a pesticide for use in England – despite it being banned by the EU two years ago because it harms bees.
The pesticide, which contains the neonicotinoid thiamethoxam, was banned – with thiamethoxam considered to hurt the insects.
But the National Farmers Union (NFU) and British Sugar lobbied politicians. They wanted the decision reversed so they can use the pesticide on their crops.
Michael Sly represents the NFU sugar board. He said: “Any treatment will be used in a limited and controlled way on sugar beet, a non-flowering crop, and only when the scientific threshold has been independently judged to have been met.
“Virus yellows disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain’s sugar beet crop. Some growers [are] experiencing yield losses of up to 80 percent, and this authorization is desperately needed to fight this disease.
“It will be crucial in ensuring that Britain’s sugar beet growers continue to have viable farm businesses.”
But the move has been blasted by environmentalists. Matt Shardlow, chief executive of Buglife, said: “We are very upset, this is an environmentally regressive decision by Defra. Destroying wildflowers in the countryside to prevent them transferring insecticides to bees is obviously beyond the pale.
“In addition no action is proposed to prevent the pollution of rivers with insecticides applied to sugar beet.
“Nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban neonics from use on sugar beet in 2018. They are still going to harm the environment. The new question is how will increased use of herbicides on field margins and hedgerows add to the onslaught being experienced by insect populations.”