DEFRA grants use of banned pesticide

  • Last updated: 16 September 2022

Once again, DEFRA has granted use of a banned pesticide which has been proved to be toxic to bees and other pollinators. Thiamethoxam was banned for all outdoor uses by the EU in 2018. The UK Government supported the ban with then Defra Secretary Michael Gove saying that, “Unless the scientific evidence changes, the government will maintain these increased restrictions post-Brexit”.

Now, sugar beet producers have been granted a derogation so that they can use seeds treated with this potent neonicotinoid insecticide.

Garden Organic has written to the Secretary of State, The Rt Hon George Eustice MP, asking him to reverse this decision. And to support farmers instead to adopt non-toxic, more nature-friendly practices. We join academics, farmers, health and environmental organisations - as well as thousands of individuals - to speak out against this outdated and unwarranted use of toxic pesticides which damage our wildlife and natural environment.

The letter reads as follows:

Dear Secretary of State,
We are extremely disappointed to hear that the UK Government has decided to grant an emergency derogation allowing sugar beet producers to use seeds treated with the bee-toxic neonicotinoid thiamethoxam.
Thiamethoxam was banned for all outdoor uses by the EU in 2018 because of the risk it poses to bees and other vital pollinator species....The UK Government’s decision to support the neonics ban was based on advice from its own advisory body on pesticides which stated that “scientific evidence now suggests the environmental risks posed by neonicotinoids – particularly to our bees and pollinators – are greater than previously understood, supporting the case for further restrictions.”
Since then, the body of evidence detailing the negative impact of neonicotinoids on not just bees and pollinators but also birds and other wildlife has only grown. Allowing farmers to use these harmful pesticides ignores the science and seriously undermines the UK Government’s own objective to leave the environment in a better state than it found it.
The mitigation measures suggested to reduce the impact on bees from this decision includes increasing the use of herbicides to destroy flowering plants so that bees are not attracted to the fields, therefore further damaging important wildlife habitat. This derogation harms wildlife without actually providing an exit strategy from reliance on banned pesticides for sugar beet farmers.
As an organic organisation representing 20,000 members, we are not alone in voicing our concern. We join academics, farmers and organisations representing environmental and health concerns. We urge the UK government to reverse this decison and instead invest in supporting farmers to adopt non-chemical alternatives to farm with nature instead of against it.